ST. BONAVENTURE — It’s likely you hadn’t heard of him until last night … or perhaps until just now.
His wasn’t among the Brian Pellegrinis or Cole Petersons or any of the other household names associated with the St. Bonaventure baseball program.
Derek Morgan sure captivated at least a portion of the Bona faithful on Monday night, however.
In the aftermath of perhaps the most spectacular Major League Baseball Home Run Derby of all time, New York Mets rookie slugger Pete Alonso could be seen celebrating this major accomplishment — his first Derby title, his $1 million grand prize, this one-for-the ages triumph over the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — with the guy who had lobbed him all those baseballs he drove out of Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
That pitcher? His cousin, Derek Morgan.
Morgan spent two years with the Bona baseball team, redshirting in 2011 while appearing in 28 games as a second baseman in 2012, before finishing his collegiate career at Indiana Institute of Technology. On Monday, he was in the thick of a wildly exciting home run exhibition, teaming with Alonso just 31 miles from his home in Copley, Ohio.
Alonso pulled out a dramatic victory despite being out-homered by the big-bopping Guerrero Jr., 91 (a truly preposterous number for a single Home Run Derby) to 57 (an impressive total of its own).
Morgan tossed up each of those 57 bombs, embracing his cousin on the mound after helping him become the home run-hitting champion.
“HONESTLY, just to be here, that’s all that matters to me,” he said in a post-Derby press conference while seated next to Alonso. “Everybody is talking about him dreaming, and I’m still dreaming. I’m catching myself sitting here just flashing back to the memories I had 20 minutes ago.
“It’s just surreal. And all that matters is that he asked me. I’m just blessed and honored that he asked me.”
Alonso got by hometown star Carlos Santana in the first round with 14 home runs, then used a late push to defeat Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr., 20-19, in the semifinals. In the final round, he edged Guerrero Jr., 23-22. The Toronto rookie sensation lost despite setting Derby records for most single-round home runs without a swing-off (29), with a swing-off (40) and total long balls (91).
Alonso, who more than doubled his first-year salary ($550,000) with Monday’s winnings, is the second rookie to win the event outright, alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in 2017.
“This is so special,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without my million-dollar thrower. He’s the man. This is a family affair, and it’s incredible.”
Added Morgan: “We got the jitters out in the first round. I think we figured it out after the first timeout in that first round. We stayed positive and kept grinding.”
Other notes from around the local baseball landscape:
— With just three representatives in a contest pitting two leagues, it might have been easy for the Olean Oilers’ presence to become lost in Monday night’s New York Collegiate Baseball League/Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game in New Jersey.
That wasn’t the case, however.
Olean outfielder Dylan Vincent cracked the NYCBL’s starting lineup, batting fifth while playing right field. The former Olean High standout and current Canisius outfielder has had a tremendous summer season, ranking first on the team in runs scored (25), tied for first in hits (34), second in batting average (.337) and third in RBIs (16) while making a handful of impressive plays in the field.
Teammate Jacob Victor, meanwhile, was named the NYCBL Player of the Night after coming off the bench to collect two hits and a run scored in the NYCBL’s 3-0 triumph, its second over the ACBL in as many years. Victor, also a Canisius College outfielder, leads Olean with a .395 average and 22 RBIs this year.
Vincent, Victor and Oilers catcher Michael Beimel played in front of 24 MLB scouts at Yogi Berra Stadium in Little Falls, New Jersey.
— Speaking of all-star games, former Bona and Oilers standout pitcher Aaron Phillips recently made his own appearance in a mid-summer exhibition as a member of the San Francisco Giants’ High-A San Jose Giants.
Phillips had a four-game stretch in June in which he went 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and allowed just three earned runs in 22 innings, culminating with a California League Pitcher of the Week honor. On the heels of that effort, he earned a spot in the California League All-Star Game, where he pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen — allowing no baserunners with a strikeout — to help the North Division to a win.
As of late June, the former ninth-round draft pick was 4-5 with a 4.90 ERA in 14 games (11 starts) with 52 strikeouts in 60 ⅔ innings pitched.
(J.P. Butler, Bradford Publishing Company group sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)