Mascot Home Run Derby adds to fun
Junction Jack, Pirate Parrot will be in Monday's finals
ST. LOUIS -- Ten-year-old Percy Brown thought he had lost. Bernie the Brewer's shot appeared to be headed over the fence for a game-winning home run in Saturday's installment of the Mascot Home Run Derby at All-Star FanFest, but the ball hit a light fixture and remained in play.
Brown, a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Louis, needed the Houston Astros mascot, Junction Jack, to win the Derby so that he would win the prize of four tickets to the State Farm Home Run Derby on Monday night.
Bernie the Brewer and Junction Jack both hit four home runs in the preliminary round to move to the finals, and after Junction Jack hit one homer, Bernie the Brewer had one himself and would have won had his shot into the lights been called a homer.
The tie set up one of the greatest overtime spectacles in all of sports -- a dizzy bat race -- to determine the winner.
Junction Jack won the dizzy bat race and moved into Monday's finals of the Mascot Home Run Derby, keeping alive Brown's chance at getting to see some of baseball's best stars on Monday night at Busch Stadium.
"I was nervous when the Brewer was hitting," Brown said. "I really thought he had it. Especially that one up in the rafters, but luckily they didn't call it.
"I thought Jack did fantastic. His swing was pretty good, I liked it. I just hope he can find a way to win on Monday."
The Pittsburgh Pirates mascot, Pirate Parrot, hit 20 home runs on Friday to win that preliminary and move to Monday's finals as well.
Brown roots for the hometown Cardinals but hasn't been to a game in a couple of years. He recently had a chance to go but a miscommunication among family members prevented him from going. A win on Monday by the Astros Junction Jack and Brown will get to see the new Busch Stadium for the first time.
"I've never been there before," Brown said. "I went to one Cardinals game a few years ago. I was going to go to a game a few weeks ago, but I was at Captain D's with my family and I didn't know that my uncle had tickets, so I didn't get to go."
Sitting next to Brown as he watched the competition was his life-long friend, Deshoun Billups, 10, who was being represented in the derby by Bernie the Brewer. As members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, the two have been able to have a safe place to go after school instead of ending up out on the streets.
"We always have fun no matter what," Billups said. "Sometimes we get in trouble but it will always be cool at the end of the day. We go swimming, play in the game room, computers, lots of stuff."
The two cheered for their sluggers as they moved past the Braves mascot, Homer, and the White Sox mascot, Southpaw into the finals. They jumped up and down and even went up to the plate to give them words of encouragement during the finals.
But in the end, it was Junction Jack who crossed the plate just ahead of Bernie and advanced to Monday's finals. And now Billups is rooting for Jack as well, hoping that his buddy may end up taking him along to the game.
"I don't know," Billups said. "But I hope so."
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.