PHOENIX -- Raquelle Enos, 14, sat there in her Yankees cap Monday for the final round of the State Farm Home Run Derby, and honestly she had no idea this was coming. It was down to two sluggers, and that meant the girl next to her was wearing a Red Sox cap.
Enos was part of the Home Run Derby Player Match-up program, representing the Lehi Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. If Robinson Cano of the Yankees won, her club's teen center would get $50,000 in renovations. If Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox won, the other teen center got $50,000. This was real to them.
Cano edged Gonzalez in a Home Run Derby for the ages, both of them hitting a record for a final round. Major League Baseball and State Farm will pay out $603,000 to charities as a result. During the post-event press conference, the girl sat on the end of the dais, as is custom. Enos was asked what it was like to be thrust into yet another Yankees-Red Sox situation.
"It was ... I don't know, it was sort of ..." Enos said.
"It's all right," Cano told her. "Take your time. Take your time."
"It was cool. I liked it," she said. "It was awkward because we were ... I don't know, against each other, I guess, and we were the last two."
The 2011 Home Run Derby was a breath of fresh air, and one of the new twists was the creation of team captains who were able to designate their own charitable beneficiaries.
"The finish was incredible," said Todd Fischer, manager of national sponsorships for State Farm. "The energy was up all night, and it started really with the announcement of the team structure. I think the team camaraderie amongst the guys, all the way through the end, even when it was two teammates competing against each other, it really brought out the best in everybody.
"Once again, the State Farm Home Run Derby put on an incredible show for the fans, and we're proud that it's all for a great cause. State Farm, together with Major League Baseball, uses the Home Run Derby donations to continue our commitment to help communities and organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs get to a better state."
With Cano leading the way, the eight participating MLB hitters clubbed 95 homers and an additional 11 during the first round swing-off. A total of 11 State Farm Gold Balls were sent over the fences at Chase Field, generating a donation of $18,000 per ball from State Farm and MLB to charities including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In addition, State Farm donated $3,000 for each non-Gold Ball home run.
The home run power on display at the event generated a donation of $450,000 on behalf of State Farm and MLB.
State Farm also went to bat for local Phoenix Area Boys & Girls Clubs by awarding an additional $120,000 as part of the Home Run Derby Player Match-up program. As a result, Enos' teen center is $50,000 richer, which means some cool new things for youngsters to enjoy there. As for the other seven teen centers represented in the Player Match-up program, they got something out of it as well: $10,000 each.
"Boys and Girls Clubs of America is so grateful toward State Farm and Major League Baseball for their continued support," said Roxanne Spillett, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. "It is through these partnerships that our chapters and members get opportunities to participate in programs and receive services that promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence."
Fischer said one of the most rewarding aspects of the annual Home Run Derby is knowing what legacy is left behind. All-Star Week moves to Kansas City next summer, but the improvements made for eight teen centers in the Phoenix area will be lasting.
"The $120,000 stays locally here, which is a great lasting impact and something great to see over the years," he said. "Coming in and being able to renovate and rejuvenate a lot of the teen centers in the area is kind of a legacy impact that the Home Run Derby and State Farm have been able to have, and the rest has been able to support kids across the country with educational programs and other youth initiatives."
Because David Ortiz's American League foursome outhomered Prince Fielder's National League counterparts, 76-19, Ortiz has $150,000 donated to the charity of his choice by MLB and State Farm. That charity is the David Ortiz Children's Fund, which helps youth in the Northeast and abroad. MLB and State Farm also will award a $25,000 donation in the name of Fielder's charity, the Ronald McDonald House. And $100,000 is awarded to the B&GCA in the name of the winning captain.
Expanding the scope of beneficiaries is something sluggers were interested in, and by all accounts it made a difference in this go-around.
"I think it made it more personal for them," said Fischer. "This event has been so unique, because it's always been about giving back to the community. The fans felt that, the kids in the Boys & Girls Clubs who were a part of that felt it, and I think the players really bought into that this year, because it became that much more personal to them, in a way that they were going to bat for causes that meant the most to them. That was something that was unique to us at State Farm."