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Top hitters 'grip it and rip it' for U.S. Marine Corps unit

September 11, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Chad Turner of Martinsburg, W.Va. is the first batter up Saturday in the Hub City Home Run Derby at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown, a fundraiser benefiting members of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, F Company in Marjah, Afghanistan.
Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

It was more than glorified batting practice.

It was a display of power.

One by one, about 40 of the area's top hitters came to the plate with a common goal -- grip it and rip it.

But it wasn't just about hitting a ball hundreds of feet. It was about lending a hand to a U.S. Marine Corps unit thousands of miles away.

It was the Hub City Home Run Derby held Saturday night at Municipal Stadium.

The event was sponsored by Softballshow.com and the City of Hagerstown's Recreation Department, as well as regional businesses.

In addition to giving players the opportunity to swing for the fences on a professional baseball field, the derby was a fundraiser benefiting members of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, F Company in Marjah, Afghanistan. Sgt. Justin A. Langlotz, a 2003 graduate of Washington County Technical High School, serves with the unit.

"It's kind of fitting that we're doing this on 9/11," said Doug Levine, president of Hub City Softball. "Those kids are fighting in a far-off country and this is a small way to show our support."

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The home run contest was the idea of Lewie Thomas, coordinator of the city's Recreation Department.

Thomas said the competition gives power hitters a chance to hit the ball on a field larger than a normal softball field.

"There are a lot of softball tournaments that have home run derbies the same day they play games," he said. "I thought it would be fun to have a derby and hold it in a professional baseball stadium. It makes it special."

Thomas said organizers had no problem attracting participants, who included local players as well as hitters from across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia.

"Because of the popularity, we definitely see this becoming an annual event," he said.

Among those participating in Saturday's home run derby was Bill Bakner of Waynesboro, Pa., who said he planned on watching the competition and ended up being one of the hitters.

"When I saw the event was for the Marine Corps unit, I had to help out my boys," he said.

Bakner said he was a member of the same Marine Corps unit when he served during the 1980s.

"It's very ironic," he said.

Bakner said he's a "softball fanatic" and has played with teams in Hagerstown and Frederick, Md.

"I'm not sure how I'll do, but I know I'll have fun," he said.

Corey Booth was the winner of the event, with Chris Greinart finishing second and Erik Curry placing third.

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