By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
NORTHFIELD — Players in the South Jersey South Shore Baseball League spent their childhoods glued to the television on a Monday night in July watching the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby. Many of them probably sat back as 8- or 10-year-old kids wondering what it might be like to one day launch dingers as part of a home run derby.
Well, ten players from the league — one representing each team — got that chance this past weekend at Birch Grove Park as the league held its inaugural Home Run Derby. And boy, did these players not disappoint! Balls were flying out of the park faster than a pro mascot might fire off T-shirts into the crowd, and the Northfield Little League players on hand to shag fly balls had their hands full, quite literally.
“I was telling a couple of the Little Leaguers when I was coming in from the cages that I would try to put on a show for them,” said Holy Spirit graduate and Ventnor Bay Sox player Dom Boselli, who made it too the finals. “This was a cool experience. It would have been nice to win it in the swing-off, but it was a good time.”
The Home Run Derby featured Ocean City Water Dogs’ Joe Gallagher, Jimmy Kurtz of the Buena Blue Dawgs, Matt Rivera of the Egg Harbor City Knights, C.J. Brown of host Northfield Cardinals, Nick Atohi of the South Jersey Surf, Absecon Outlaws’ Ray Keelan, Egg Harbor Township Eagles’ Anthony Feinstein, Dylan Stezzi of the Somers Point Captains and James Mancini of the Galloway Mustangs.
Gallagher stole the show, blasting 18 home runs in the opening round and eventually defeating Boselli, 5-2, in a 30-second swing-off after both players had clubbed 11 homers in the finals. Atohi and Boselli each had 13 in the opening round to make it to the semis, and Rivera finished with nine in the opening round to take the last spot in the semis. Boselli and Riveral both tied in the second round with 12 homers, forcing a one-minute “swing-off” that Boselli won, 7-6.
“It’s crazy, especially with the time clocks, you don’t realize how gassed (the pro guys) get. Every round, going into swing-offs and stuff — it was a great experience,” Boselli said. “It was really cool. Especially with it being a new league this year, it’s great for everybody out here. There are a lot of families out here and a lot of fan exposure.”
Gallagher said he started feeling the fatigue in the finals, but had to just push through.
“I was more tired in the first round of the championship than the last 30 seconds. The energy, the competition with Dom, the adrenaline, it all kicked in,” he said. “It was pretty cool. I visualize myself being in the (MLB) All-Star Game in 2026 at Citizens Bank Park (in Philadelphia) and this is just a dry run. My approach was to stay short and not try to do too much. It’s a small field, so I knew if I hit the ball hard and hit it off the barrel it would have a chance to go out, and not use too much energy.”
“Nobody was out there yelling them out and you didn’t see them on the scoreboard, so I just kept swinging, pitch-by-pitch,” Boselli added. “I came in pretty confident. I kind of viewed myself as an underdog.”
In all, Gallagher led the way with an astounding 49 home runs. Boselli was second with 45 while Rivera, another Holy Spirit graduate, finished with 27. Nick Atohi, a former Mainland High star, finished with 24.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays