Dan Gamache has never hit more than six home runs in any of his five minor-league baseball seasons.

But the Altoona Curve infielder sneaked up on the field and then surpassed them all Wednesday to win the Home Run Derby ahead of the Eastern League All-Star Game at Hadlock Field.

Gamache pounded four home runs in nine swings in the final round to outpace Ricky Oropesa of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, who hit two.

“I feel like it’s easier in batting practice to hit home runs because you’re not really trying and no one’s really watching you,” Gamache said after earning the $1,000 reward. “It’s nice not being one of the guys that’s leading the league in home runs because there’s probably pressure then.”

Gamache entered the All-Star break with five home runs. The Rhode Island native won the derby in front of his family and the hitting coach he’s had since he was 8.

The Portland Sea Dogs’ representative was Jantzen Witte, who leads the Eastern League with 25 doubles, but has only four home runs. Being a right-handed line-drive hitter was a decided disadvantage. Three of the four semifinalists bat left-handed, and so didn’t have to contend with the Maine Monster in left field or the wind blowing in from that direction.


Witte failed to homer in 10 swings, although his final attempt hit high off the wall.

“I was just trying to get loose. We’ve been kind of rushed around here today, signing autographs,” said Witte, who had never participated in a home run contest before and said it was a blast to do so. “After that round, I was thinking maybe I should have tried to go (opposite field). I don’t know, that’s a pretty big wall there in left.

“I don’t hit a ton of home runs, but I really thought that that last one had a chance.”

Portland High School graduate Ryan Baker, who played six minor-league seasons in the New York Yankees’ system before retiring in 2013, was the catcher for the contest. Members of the current Portland and Deering high school baseball teams got to track down the fly balls that ended up short of the outfield seats.

The all-star players and coaches enjoyed an old-fashioned Maine lobster bake Tuesday night at Spring Point in South Portland, complete with fog.

The only person missing was Richmond hitting coach Ken Joyce, a Portland native who is a graduate of both Deering High and the University of Southern Maine. He was in Windham, watching another all-star.


Jill Joyce, a rising freshman at McAuley, stroked a two-run single that broke a scoreless tie and led the Portland All-Stars to a 7-3 victory over Windham in the Juniors Softball state championship.

Had Portland lost, a winner-take-all game would have coincided with Wednesday’s Eastern League All-Star Game.

“She pointed at me as if to say, ‘I’m coming to your game tomorrow night,” Joyce said. “There was no way she was playing (Wednesday).”

Portland will represent Maine in a New England Regional 14-and-under tournament that starts July 24 in West Haven, Connecticut.

Ken Joyce, who pitched for the West in Wednesday night’s Home Run Derby, watched from a hill beyond center field with two sisters and his son, Tommy.

Janet Joyce, Ken’s wife, is the Portland coach. Already Jill has started a GoFundMe page to help defray expenses for the trip to regionals.


Four groups of a dozen All-Stars each spent about an hour Wednesday morning at four venues. One group visited the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. Another traveled to the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough. The other two dropped in on the Boys and Girls Club of Portland on Cumberland Avenue and the Riverton School, where a summer recreation program was underway.

Mychal Givens, a Bowie pitcher who was called up for one game last month (and pitched his only inning at Fenway Park), brought a GoPro camera to record the festivities. Teammate Terry Doyle wore it during batting practice and while interacting with fans along the left-field line. Givens donned it for the Home Run Derby.

BLAKE SWIHART not only put in an impressive performance with his celebrity appearance at the All-Star Game, he will stay with the Sea Dogs on a rehab assignment.

Swihart, 23, has been on the major league disabled list with a strained foot. He began a rehab assignment with Pawtucket for two games before the All-Star break. On Thursday, he will continue his rehab stint with the Sea Dogs, who begin a four-game series in New Hampshire.

In Pawtucket, Swihart served as the DH one game and caught seven innings in the other.

On Wednesday, Swihart threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He had already accepted an invitation to the All-Star Game before learning of the rehab assignment.


When Swihart threw his first pitch, Sea Dogs pitcher Robby Scott served as the catcher. In last year’s Eastern League All-Star Game in Altoona, Scott pitched to Swihart in the game. Swihart was eventually promoted to Pawtucket near the end of last year. This season, he was called up to Boston May 2.

After Swihart threw out the first pitch, he walked throughout the stands at Hadlock Field for over 90 minutes, greeting fans.

BRANDON NIMMO does not come from one of those U.S. baseball hotbeds in Texas, California or Florida, Nimmo, a Binghamton outfielder and the New York Mets’ No. 3 prospect, hails from Wyoming, a state which does not have high school baseball.

“Not a lot of baseball players come from Wyoming,” said Nimmo, 22, the Mets’ first-round draft pick in 2011. “I played (American) Legion ball. We start in the middle of April and go until August.”

Nimmo also played in some out-of-state prospect tournaments which got him more exposure.

FAN BUSES are normal at a Sea Dogs game, but two came from Reading, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey, bringing fans of the Reading Fightin Phils and the Trenton Thunder.


“It was an eight-hour ride but it was well worth it,” said Jeff Faas, 54, of Topton, Pennsylvania. Faas said the Fightin Phils offer a bus trip once a season and decided on the All-Star Game.

The Reading fans arrived Monday, took a tour of Hadlock and then did their tourist thing.

“It’s gone really well,” said Faas, wearing his Phils’ jersey, along with his new Maine cap, complete with a lobster on it.

THE NATIONAL anthem was sung by the Portland Manager Billy McMillon’s daughter, Kennedy McMillon, 14.

THE WEATHER turned out much better than early forecasts of rain. The players were introduced under sunny skies.

Only one Eastern League All-Star Game has been canceled, and that was in 2007 when fog rolled into Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut and stopped the game in the third inning. The Norwich franchise has since moved to Richmond, Virginia (Norwich now has a short-season New York-Penn League team).

– Staff writers Kevin Thomas and Glenn Jordan contributed to this report.

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