The St. Paul Saints are hosting this year’s American Association All-Star Game next week. While the game is set to start at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, the Home Run Derby is slated for Monday at 8 p.m. The Saints have two players participating Monday night, infielder Angelo Songco and outfielder Alonzo Harris.
I pulled them aside quick after batting practice the other night to discuss how to hit a home run, what to eat in their hometowns, bat-flipping, and beating the heat.
Me: How do you hit a home run?
AH: Basically you just try to get a base hit, put a good swing on the ball, try to hit it hard somewhere. If you get some good backspin, and maybe if the wind condition is right, you might hit a home run.
First baseball game you remember playing in:
Way back when I was 3, I went straight to Coach Pitch. I just remember my oldest sister throwing me a racquetball. I had a little bat in my hand, and I hit it. She ran in and said ‘Dad, Junior can hit!’ Next thing you know, my father signed me up for tee-ball … but they said I was advanced for tee-ball and I went straight to Coach Pitch.
First game I can remember, coach pitched me the ball. I hit it and ran to first base —
Me: You were doing that at age three?!
AH: Yes sir.
Me: I’m not even sure I would walk at age three!
(Editor’s note: I’m not sure I’ve mastered the art even now)
When did it dawn on you that you could do this professionally?
I mean, honestly, I always thought it was fun. I’m from Mississippi — football and basketball are big down there. Everybody focuses on the SEC, playing football, but I continued to play [baseball] from three. I love the sport. It’s a challenging game. It’s an individual game, but all nine players have to do their job. It challenges me to play my best.
People who visit Mississippi, where MUST they eat and what MUST they get?
If you go to Mississippi, and you want to eat somewhere, you just gotta get in touch with me and I’ll send you to my auntie and my family. I’ll get them set well with that good soul food cooking. There’s Miss Leatha’s too, in Hattiesburg. That’s my family, too. If they really want some home cookin,’ just tell me and we’ll get down with some good country food.
I dropped my pen on the ground and broke a sweat bending over to pick it up. How do you guys play ball in this heat?!
A lot of people don’t understand, when you’re on the field, you’ve got the wind blowing and you’re constantly moving around. It’s cooler in the field than in the dugout. If I’m out in center field, it’s just me and the breeze out there.
Monday’s derby: Who’s gonna win?
Whoever hits the most home runs, I guess. I’m just 5’10”, 175 pounds. Not many guys that size are in a home run derby. I’m just thankful to God to have the opportunity to showcase my talents. If I hit one, I’m satisfied. This is an opportunity I thought I’d never get. Maybe in a video game, when I created my player.
Me: How do you hit a home run?
AS: See the ball up, swing the ball as hard as you can, and hopefully it goes out. Home runs are just line drives that run out of position players to catch it.
Let’s say the home run derby is going to be done using beach balls instead of baseballs, and anything over 100 feet is a home run. How many would you hit?
AS: Maaan, I don’t know. I haven’t hit a beach ball in a long time.
FH: So you’re insinuating you’ve done it before.
AS: Just for fun, but I don’t know … maybe a couple?
First home run you ever hit, do you remember it?
I do. It was little league, and I was 11 years old in what we called “the majors.” It barely snuck over the fence. It was a pretty cool moment.
(Songco is originally from California)
So I suppose you don’t spend your winters up this way?
Not here, no. I live over in Idaho now with my wife and kids in Coeur d’Alene.
If you travel to Idaho, where MUST you eat and what MUST you get?
It’s a little local place. It’s a Thai restaurant called Thai Bamboo. That’d be my first go-to. I get Pad Thai. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had.
Thoughts on bat-flipping:
It depends on the situation. You see a lot of guys do it. I mean, on a walk-off you can do it … but on a walk-off, you can do pretty much anything you want. I bat flip a little bit, but it’s not to the extreme.
Me: So you can do anything you want if you hit a walk-off home run?!
AS: I feel like.
Me: What do you do?
AS: I’ve only hit one. It was back in 2011. I hit it, I knew it was gone, I took four steps, little bat flip, then that was it … then, for some reason, on my first at-bat the next day, I got hit by a pitch. I don’t know. That pitcher didn’t understand the game.
Monday’s derby. Who’s going to win?
FH: How many?
As: That part … I’ll tell you Monday.