MIAMI--Nolan Gorman tried not the let the nerves get to him Sunday.
But if Noah Naylor felt any nerves, his older brother Josh--the 2015 first-round pick and current Padres prospect--wouldn’t let them drag him down.
With Josh cheering him on from the field, Noah Naylor mashed eight home runs in the second round and 15 overall to finish first out of seven participants in the High School Home Run Derby at Marlins Park. Gorman, with seven homers in each round--including eight into the upper deck--finished second.
The two high schoolers advance to the finals, which will be held Monday prior to MLB’s Home Run Derby.
Swinging new metal bats provided by Louisville Slugger, the seven-man contingent put on an impressive display on a Sunday morning. None was more impressive than Naylor, whose mother Jenice was in the stands and whose older brother participates in his second Futures Game later on Sunday.
While Josh shot video and provided coaching from the side, Noah found a rhythm in his lefthanded swing and starting lashing line drives out to his pull side, into the right-field seats.
“Come on! Don’t watch it! Get back in and get ready!” Josh Naylor exhorted his brother at one point, after a long home run. “Keep it going! You’ve got this!”
The elder Naylor knew what Noah was going through, as he participated in 2014, also representing Canada. (Speaking of Canada, Futures Gamers Mike Soroka and Cal Quantrill also showed up to support the Naylors in the Derby.) When Noah got to 15, clinching a spot in the finals, Josh couldn’t contain a wide smile. “This is so awesome,” he said. “I think I believe in him more than he believes in himself.”
Noah said his brother only helped. “He’s been through this, helping me from the side, always giving me tips, and it definitely helped,” Noah said. “He’s done some great things before me, but I’ve got this over him now; I’ll have it forever.”
Josh Naylor seemed OK with that. “I did the same thing as him, and that’s why I felt pressure for him,” Josh added. “It’s nerve-wracking. You’ve got to get that first one out of the way. But this is amazing; I’m so happy for him.”
Next up could be 12-year-old Myles Naylor, being coached by his father Chris in a travel tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend. However, mother Jenice was on hand Sunday to watch the high school derby and the Futures Game, along with the Naylor boys’ grandmother, a cousin and an aunt.
Of course, the Naylors weren’t the only ones making noise at the Derby. Gorman was in his first home run derby, at least “since I was little,” he said, and the Sandra Day O’Connor High player and Arizona signee for the high school class of 2018 had a steady performance, clubbing seven homers in each round in what he said was his first time hitting in a major league ballpark.
“The biggest thing is relaxing,” Gorman said. “You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s a fun event to be at, you have to try to enjoy it.”
Now both players will participate in front of the big crowd expected Monday prior to the Home Run Derby proper. “It’s going to be fun,” Gorman said. “It’s going to be a bigger stage, that’s for sure.”
Other participants Sunday included Bryce Bush of Birmingham, Mich., an alumnus of MLB’s RBI program; Elijah Cabell of Winter Park, Fla.; Triston Casas of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Jarred Kelenic of Waukesha, Wis.; and Kevin Vargas of Salinas, P.R.
Bush, who hit 12, got the event started by hitting a home run into the bushes in the batter’s eye in center field. Kelenic, with 13 home runs, fell just short of the finals, while Cabell hit 12--including at least two off the famed Marlins Park sculpture in left-center field, though it was turned off. Casas, whose raw lefthanded power ranks toward the top of the 2018 class, hit eight in the first round but just two in the second round. Vargas hit two.
Kelenic is expected to be named Monday to USA Baseball’s 18U national team roster. He was on the team last fall and performed well last month in the Tournament of Stars, which functions as the 18U team’s trials. They’ll play in the world championship in Thunder Bay, Ont., against Naylor’s Canadians and other nations in September.
“I like it high in the zone for a home run derby, and early on I had a good rhythm going,” Kelenic said. “In the second round, I just wasn’t able to get going as well with balls lower in the zone or even down the middle.
“It’s a great experience, though. I was on the 18U team last year, and I think I did well in Cary, so that’s what I can control, and hopefully I’ll earn a spot on the 18U team again. It would be a great honor to play for Team USA again.”