When strong baseball players are well-rested, the balls they hit can travel a long way.
Trevor Story has been on a forced rest for 22 games thanks to a broken little finger suffered when he was hit by a pitch, so imagine how far he should be able to hit a ball.
The 2,094 fans on hand to greet the opening of the second half of the Modesto Nuts’ season don’t have to wonder. Early in the Nuts’ 7-5 victory over High Desert on Thursday night, indeed on his first swing since his escape from the disabled list, Story launched a home run that cleared the scoreboard.
Keep in mind it’s 400 feet from home plate to the board, which stands 50 feet tall.
It was one of six home runs in the game – three by each team – and none were cheap. As if it’s even possible to hit a cheap home run at the California League’s version of Yellowstone National Park.
“I’ve never seen the ball fly like this here in my two years,” Story said. “It’s hard to explain, but it was flying out of here.”
Jordan Ribera and Will Swanner also cleared the fence for Modesto, while Tyler Marlette, D.J. Peterson and Gabriel Guerrero connected for the Mavericks. Peterson and Guerrero went deep on back-to-back pitches in the fifth inning as High Desert scored four runs to erase most of what was a 6-1 Nuts lead.
“I’ve never seen it carry like that, and some of the old-timers told me that they’d never seen a ball get as far over the scoreboard as Story’s did,” Nuts manager Don Sneddon said. “One of our famous tree people found Trevor’s ball and brought it back. You know, I’m a much better manager when Trevor Story is in the lineup.”
Right now, he’s the manager of a first-place team. After the Nuts went 23-47 to match the worst first half in franchise history, Thursday’s second-half opener gave them new life.
“It does lift some of the pressure,” Story said. “It’s a relief to be able to put the first half behind. It’s a clean slate and a fresh start and everybody’s even. It gives us something to look forward to.”
The shortstop’s prodigious blast came on a 1-0 fastball with one out and one aboard in the first inning. Story added an RBI single in a three-run third ahead of Ribera’s no-doubt blast to right-center.
In Story’s third at-bat, he tripled off the base of the wall in left-center and scored on a wild pitch. It gave the Nuts a 6-1 lead and left Story a double short of his second cycle this season. He would bat again with two outs in the seventh, only to be hit by a 2-0 fastball.
“It wasn’t something you want to happen when you have the chance to do something special, but you can’t do anything about it,” Story said.
Nuts starter Devin Burke (5-3) was pulled one batter after the back-to-back shots by Peterson and Guerrero, who very much resembles his uncle, Vladimir Guerrero, both physically and in approach.
Burke limited High Desert to one run on two hits over five innings. Shane Broyles and Rayan Gonzalez took over to get the final 11 outs, allowing only two more hits.
Swanner’s homer in the bottom of the sixth ended the power surge and the scoring.
“Even in batting practice the ball doesn’t carry like this,” Sneddon said. “The last month we were close to a .500 club, so you could see things turning as players got more comfortable with their roles. If our pitching holds up, we should be able to contend in the second half.”