Black shows off power swing


Sports Writer

Sunday, July 15, 2018

From a local competition in Rocky Mount to a regional contest in Washington, D.C., Owen Black is going national. The local power-hitting kid displayed his fence-clearing swing to secure a spot in the national competition of Major League Baseball’s Jr. Home Run Derby.

Black, a 13-year-old from Murfreesboro, will participate in the MLB Jr. Home Run Derby this week as part of the MLB All-Star Game festivities. The Jr. Derby is a competition open to those 14 years and under, and Black has been the best at each stop along the way.

Everything began in Rocky Mount when Black won a contest in April as part of the Buck Leonard Association’s Pitch, Hit & Run tournament held at Stith Talbert Park. Black won that event by hitting a tournament-high 27 home runs, which qualified him for the regional round in D.C.

The regional round was held on May 13 — Mother’s Day — and Black, again, won the 14U competition with a leading total of homers and punched his ticket to All-Star Weekend. Black had to beat out competitors from five different states in the regional round, including D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

Black hit a total of 18 home runs, with eight coming in the opening round. He followed that by hitting 10 more in the second round to seal his victory. He is one of eight kids to participate this week on the Nationals home field.

“It is all surreal to think my little boy from rural North Carolina is now going to compete and represent NC and the region in a national competition,” Black’s father, Rodney, said in an email.

As part of his winnings, Black received tickets to Tuesday’s All-Star Game, expenses paid to travel to and stay in D.C., as well as a personalized uniform and bat.

“I am very proud to represent North Carolina in this national competition,” said Black, who has been playing baseball since he was 4 years old. “I have been blessed and thank all the people that have helped me along the way.”

The Buck Leonard Association has held Pitch, Hit & Run competitions for the past eight years, and the HR Derby for the past two.

“Our hope is that more area youth will participate next year,” said Rose Hunter, executive director of the Buck Leonard Association for sports and human enrichment, “giving them the opportunity to exhibit their baseball skills to the Major League Baseball community.”