07/13/09 11:40 PM ET
Howard enjoys hometown HR Derby
Phils slugger swats 15 homers, doesn't advance to finals
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
And this was his hometown crowd.
Howard, who grew up just outside St. Louis, hit 15 home runs in two rounds Monday night in the State Farm Home Run Derby at Busch Stadium. His seven homers in the first round advanced him to the semifinals with Nelson Cruz, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, but his eight homers in the semifinals were not enough to reach the finals for the second time in his three Derby appearances.
Fielder won the Derby, hitting six in the final round.
"I didn't feel any pressure," Howard said. "You just want to try to get at least one home run."
But Howard, who won the Derby in 2006 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, clearly enjoyed himself. He had Deron Spink, his high school summer league baseball coach, throw to him. Spink is the head baseball coach at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. He worked with Howard during his high school and college years, including the time before Howard's first season in the Minor Leagues in 2001.
But Howard, who won the Derby in 2006 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, clearly enjoyed himself. He had his high school summer league baseball coach Deron Spink throw to him. Spink is the head baseball coach at Bellarmine University. He worked with Howard during his high school and college years, including the time before Howard's first season in the Minor Leagues in 2001.
"That meant more to me than anything," Howard said. "It was a great time. I knew it was a special experience for him. It meant more to me to have him out there than anything else."
Howard also received a nice ovation from the St. Louis fans before he hit in the first round. Only Pujols received a louder ovation.
(As an aside, the Phillie Phanatic received the second-loudest ovation during mascot introductions before the Derby. Only St. Louis' mascot got more cheers.)
"It felt good," Howard said. "That's one thing about the crowd here in St. Louis. They're always receptive to good ballplayers and just overall good play period. But for them to give me the ovation I received was awesome.
"I didn't know what to expect, but I'll definitely take it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.