SOUTH BEND – Over 5,000 fans packed Four Winds Field on Monday night to watch Chris Betts and Alek Thomas duel it out in the 2019 Midwest League Home Run Derby championship round. On a walk-off bomb off the ‘B’ of the Cubs logo of the Performance Center on his final swing deep over the right field wall, Betts tossed a legendary bat flip as he was covered with the Gatorade shower.
The day started with autographs from both the East and West Division All-Stars. Afterwards, Chicago Cubs legends Andre Dawson, Fergie Jenkins, Leon Durham, Steve Trout, and Mitch Williams signed for the fans in attendance. Once the autographs were done, it was derby time.
Nolan Gorman and Chris Williams started the tournament. That was followed by Jerar Encarnacion versus Alek Thomas, Chris Betts versus Niko Hulsizer, and Jake Brodt versus Jonathan Sierra.
Betts was feeling it from the start. With seven home runs in the first round to beat Hulsizer 7-6, he crushed nine in the second round following by eight in the championship. Thomas, who came in as the smallest player and underdog, fought his way to the title round with six, four, and seven.
In the championship, Thomas was rested and crushed seven, but Betts’ walk-off beat him as he was congratulated by every All-Star in the dugout. He was presented with the championship plaque and $1,000 cash. Thomas received $500 as the runner-up.
The Home Run Derby sets up a battle of the division’s tomorrow night at 7:35 p.m. Gates will open at 5:30. East Division All-Stars will sign autographs from 5:30 to 6:00 p.m. followed by the West All-Stars from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. The day’s activities will begin Tuesday afternoon at the Century Center, where Chicago Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg will be the featured speaker at the All-Star Game luncheon. Sandberg will later arrive at Four Winds Field to throw out the first pitch for the All-Star Game.
Mr. Worldwide ‘Stuck In Florida’
The hyperbole and puns were all over Twitter Sunday night and into Monday. But one thing remained, Pitbull’s camp stuck to its guns that there was no way the singer could have been in South Bend for the concert Sunday night.
Rapper Pitbull was scheduled to play at Four Winds Field as the headliner to the triple bill that also featured a no-show as half of the Ying Yang Twins, Kaine, was absent while D-Roc performed solo.
Inclement weather in south Florida on Sunday was the reasoning Pitbull’s public relations people gave as to why the headliner did not show in South Bend. The South Bend Cubs worked into the evening to attempt to get him into the air, but failed to come to a conclusion before the evening progressed too far.
The South Bend Cubs issued a written response on Monday morning:
“The South Bend Cubs apologize on behalf of Pitbull and his team for the cancellation of the Pitbull concert last night at Four Winds Field in South Bend.
“We apologize to our loyal fans who waited for Pitbull last night,” said Andrew T. Berlin. “The trust of our fans is something we hold very dear to our hearts. That’s why I personally stepped onto the stage to tell ticket holders that the concert was cancelled. It was a tough thing to tell everyone because we’d been working frantically behind the scenes to help Pitbull get to town, including alternative travel arrangements.”
“At 6:30 p.m. we got a call from the Pitbull staff that there were weather issues with regard to flights out of Florida,” added Joe Hart, President of the South Bend Cubs. “But there was no talk of cancellation in that 6:30 call. We believed we could still get him here.”
“Instead, we mobilized our team to talk with Pitbull’s agents, and our own pilots to talk with his pilots. We were determined to solve the problem and doing everything possible to get him here.
“Any suggestion that we delayed telling fans so that we could sell concessions is both untrue and preposterous. We were actively working on getting Pitbull here.
“By 9:15 p.m. we realized that even if we could get Pitbull here, the 2.5-hour flight would get him into South Bend too close to midnight. To make people wait that long was unacceptable.
“Out of fairness to the act that was onstage at the time, we waited until they were finished and then within 60 seconds, Berlin himself stepped immediately up to the microphone to tell everyone what had happened.
“Full ticket refunds will be available one week from today, Monday June 24. Those refunds will be available sooner if we can arrange it with our ticketing agent. We will keep everyone posted on the status of refunds and a rescheduled concert later this summer.
“Again, the trust that our fans have in us is very dear to us,” added Berlin. “We were working very hard behind the scenes to make this work. When it didn’t work out, we were honest and forthcoming about it. We were definitely not trying to sell concessions. That is not what we’re about. And I think our fans know that. We do apologize on behalf of Pitbull and his team. And we want our fans to know that we are making good on this concert.”