Gabriel Guerrero raised his hands in the air and pumped up the crowd as he settled in at the plate for the finals of the Southern League Home Run Derby.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos star the put on a show for the fans that turned out for the event Monday night at Blue Wahoos Stadium, with a couple of homers towering over the light pole near centerfield and a handful of other balls sailing over the wall and into the bay.
His effort was enough to outlast Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna in a derby that went into three overtimes after no winner was decided after three rounds of action.
The native of the Dominican Republic and nephew of former Major League star Vladimir Guerrero, finished with 29 homers.
“It was special and it feels good to do in front of these fans,” Guerrero said. “I wanted to put on a show.”
Guerrero heated up late in the first round to finish with eight homers and he belted out nine to push him into the finals against Acuna, one of the Braves’ hot young prospects out of Venezuela.
Guerrero didn’t wear batting gloves until the final overtime, and even then he only had one on. He admits he was worn out when it was all said and done.
“I’m tired right now and have some blisters on my hands but the fans kept me going,” Guerrero said. “They pumped me up.”
Guerrero is in his first season in Pensacola and is batting .274. The talented outfielder did not hit a home run the entire first half of the season while helping the Blue Wahoos to their fourth consecutive South Division championship. He has 54 homers in his seven seasons in the minors.
“I knew I had a little bit of power,” Guerrero said. “And the pitches were right on the money.”
He’s in the midst of one of his best seasons, with 69 hits already this year in 65 games. He managed only 77 hits in 92 games a season ago while playing in Mobile.
“I just try to hit the ball hard and not worry about home runs,” Guerrero said. “I’m happy with the opportunity I have here. I’m having fun.”