Gold Derby balls raise $294K for charity

Gold Derby balls raise $294K for charity

PITTSBURGH -- It might be a long time before anyone hits as many homers as Bobby Abreu pumped out at Detroit at last year's CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby, but Phillies teammate Ryan Howard established one mark in the event on Monday night that meant more than a little to the new long ball champion.

Howard single-handedly accounted for $126,000 of the $294,000 that will go to charities as a result of the 14 golden baseballs that were hit out in the Home Run Derby at PNC Park. It marked the second year for this new tradition in the hugely popular event that precedes Major League Baseball's All-Star Game.

"You know, in the big picture, it's huge, raising money," the worn-out Phillies slugger said as he held his son during the victory press conference. "I don't know, I just kind of got locked in when it was that last out trying to get that perfect pitch. Being able to raise that money, I think, is the bigger picture here."

The two-toned Rawlings golden baseballs again were substituted whenever each participant was down to his final out. Each of those baseballs hit for a homer meant $21,000 that goes to charity. Howard hit eight total homers in his first round, and half of those were the gold balls as he sat on nine of the allotted 10 outs. The giant scoreboard at PNC showed the capacity crowd the running total, and that has proven to add even more energy -- and meaning -- to this event.

"CENTURY 21 and Major League Baseball split the charity between Easter Seals and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America," said John Greenleaf, senior vice president of marketing for the real estate company. "It was wonderful for us to take our business and really push it down into the community and benefit where it's needed the most. It's about being good stewards in the community and benefiting people in need.

"What's remarkable is that the money adds up so quickly. Someone may say that $21,000 for each homer is not that much, but when you have athletes of this caliber, it adds up fast. It clearly warms the hearts of the players to know they made these contributions."

Monday's total matched the amount raised in last year's inaugural deployment of the gold balls at Comerica Park, so that's $588,000 combined for charity in two events. The first three batters in Monday's event each hit one gold ball out, starting a roll.

Howard's four consecutive gold balls in the first round all headed toward the Allegheny River beyond right field, with the second of those splashing down. There were 10 gold balls hit out in the first round, and four in the semifinal round, including two more by Howard. No gold balls were used in the championship round, where David Wright was unable to park a gold ball and then Howard clinched his victory with only five outs.

After the post-Derby press conference, Greenleaf asked Howard to sign one of the gold balls from the event. If you want to get your hands on one of these, then you're in luck as well. The gold balls are on sale at the MLB.com Shop. You can buy the ball itself for $34.99, and for $39.99 you can get the ball with a collector's cube.

Howard finished with 23 homers, and Wright, the Mets' third baseman, finished with 22 (one gold). The remaining totals in the eight-man field were as follows, with gold-ball totals in parenthesis: Miguel Cabrera 15 (2), David Ortiz 13 (3), Jermaine Dye 7, Lance Berkman 3 (1), Miguel Tejada 3 (1) and Troy Glaus 1 (0).

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.