Mountain Pointe Home Run Derby

Several current and former MLB players who graduated from Mountain Pointe came out on Saturday, Dec. 14 to participate in a Q&A session and home run derby for members of the Ahwatukee community and current players on the Pride roster.

The Mountain Pointe Baseball team held its annual Alumni Q&A and Home Run Derby Saturday, which featured the current team and current/former MLB players who played for the Pride. 

Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker, Philadelphia Phillies infielder Scott Kingery, Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Kevin Cron and his older brother, Minnesota Twins infielder C.J. Cron and former Chicago Cub and Arizona Diamondback Joe Mather all attended the event.

Before the derby, Kevin, Tucker, Kingery and Mather held a Q&A session where current players, fans and members of the community were able to ask each of them questions. 

“It’s crazy, I don’t think I’ve been in this gym since my sister was a senior in 2015 maybe, I was watching her play volleyball,” Kevin said. “It was really special to be back and be in the gym and see how the program’s gone in a new direction and it’s been really cool to get back here.”

According to first-year head coach and alum J.J. Sferra, the idea for a Q&A came from freshman coach Sergio Holguin. He said it’s great to bring back old faces and not only let them provide the kids and community an opportunity they won’t forget but to continue the connection between alums and the school.

“That’s the reason why I got into education and coaching,” Sferra said. “Mountain Pointe did a lot for me as a young adult and as a player. So I just wanted to give back to my roots, kind of where I came from and just do the same thing Mountain Pointe did for me and I love Mountain Pointe, I care for it and I want my players to have the same experience and opportunities I got from Mountain Pointe.”

During the Q&A, the players were asked a variety of questions. Some were easy, such as, ‘where’s your favorite baseball stadium?’ and ‘which team is your favorite?’ 

Some, however, went a bit deeper. One fan asked the players who the toughest pitcher they ever faced was. However, the best questions came from the current Pride players. 

“What did you have to learn on the fly?” one player asked. “Have you thought about life after baseball? Did you question yourself and so much more?”

The questions provided great answers from the players.

“Nobody talks too much about, once you get to pro ball, it’s not the same as being at the top level,” Kingery said. “It’s 15-hour bus rides, having to stay in some bad hotels, it’s a grind. You think, coming from college or high school you’re going to be big-time, but you get there and you’re the same as everyone else and you kind of have to prove yourself again. 

“Once you get thrown into that, it’s kind of a shock, you got to work through it and realize you’re going to have to push even harder to get to the top of pro players also.”

After the Q&A, everyone went to the field for the home run derby. 

Each participant was given a set number of pitches depending on the round and the ones with the most home runs would move on to the semis. Then, the two best would face off in the finals. 

Tucker and Mather were the only two alumni to swing. Tucker ended up in the semis. He eventually made it to the finals where he was dethroned by Mountain Pointe senior Ethan Long. 

Long had won the two previous home run derbies and said it was great to compete with big leaguers and win. 

“It’s always a good time, it’s fun every year just to get out and interact with them and go up against them, it’s always good competition,” Long said. 

While the home run derby provides alums a chance to return to their stomping grounds, this year, it allowed brothers to be on the field with each other. 

Tucker’s younger brother, Carson, who is committed to the University of Texas and one of MLB Pipeline’s top-100 prospects for the 2020 MLB Draft, is a senior at Mountain Pointe this year. While Carson didn’t hit in the derby, he said having a brother like Cole is great.

“We text and call every day throughout the whole year,” Carson said. “He gives me a lot of good feedback, like a lot of tips I can bring back to my (career), cause I’m in high school right now obviously, and use his tips and his advantages for me to help me be more advanced than the kids I’m playing around so it helps a lot. 

“Which will help me eventually get to the next level and keep doing the things he’s been doing.”

For Cole, he said this school, this program and this community is deeply important to him. He chose to skip college and go straight into the major leagues when he was drafted in the first round by Pittsburgh in 2014. Due to this, his time at Mountain Pointe essentially became his college years.  

“Mountain Pointe Baseball has always been family for us, my older brother Quinn played here, I played here, Carson plays here, my mom is involved in the boosters, my grandparents come to all the games,” Cole said. “It’s cool to come here and be honored as a pro player just because of all the good players that have come before me and to be recognized as someone who came here and made an impact and made a difference is super special. 

“Like, I didn’t go to college, so this is my college, man, like I really love and care about this school and this community.”

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