COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. – Mallex Smith started with five straight misses before landing his sixth bunt squarely on the target.
He didn’t think one successful attempt would be enough, but it was.
After winning the first Lost Art of Bunting contest at Tuesday’s Midwest League All-Star Game, the TinCaps’ center fielder expressed sympathy for the five other contestants, none of whom registered a point.
It’s understandable, he said. On the tarp, the ball was moving fast. If you had any momentum by the time you hit it, it would keep going by.
Still, Smith triumphantly held up the trophy featuring a ball buried in bundt cake.
It’s a big trophy for a guy who only bunted the ball 30 feet, said Smith, who also received a $200 prize and a chocolate cake.
Competitors took aim at the two tarps about halfway up either baseline. Each got 10 tries.
Smith went second and finally rolled one toward third base onto the red stripe, worth three points.
I was feeling for how far I needed to go, he said. The bunts before, I had one or two that barely stayed off, so I wanted to make it a bit softer.
The biggest problem, Smith said, was the distance.
That’s a long way, he said. Normally (in a game), if you bunt it out there you’re going to be out.
The contest also featured Bowling Green’s Kean Wong, West Michigan’s Wynton Bernard, Beloit’s Boog Powell, Quad Cities’ Chan-Jong Moon and Peoria’s C.J. McElroy Jr.
Even though he’s not a closer for the TinCaps, Tyron Guerrero was Eastern Division manager Andrew Graham’s choice to pitch the ninth inning at the All-Star game.
I just like what I’ve seen, Graham said before the game. He’s a big kid. He’s a great talent. He’s going to be something special down the road.
The TinCaps’ Nick Mutz, who has six saves to Guerrero’s one, said he was definitely excited for Guerrero, who said it was an honor to fill the role.
On my side
Graham, who manages the host Whitecaps, saw Smith pick up four hits and two walks in six games against West Michigan. Graham said it was a thrill to have Smith on his side for once. He’s a sparkplug, Graham said.