Two Floridians advance to Junior Home Run Derby Championship

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Although fan voting for the 2016 MLB All-Star Game remains in progress, two hitters locked their spots on Sunday for the festivities at Petco Park in San Diego.

Jack Bello and Jake Johnson will participate in the Junior Home Run Derby Championships during All-Star Week, having won the 12-and-younger and 14-and-younger Orlando regionals at South Orange Youth Sports Complex.

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Johnson clubbed the most homers on the day, starting with eight on 20 pitches to lead all batters in Round 1. He followed with five home runs on 20 pitches in Round 2, just enough to become regional champion.

"Just make contact, stay back and get swings in on the ball," Johnson said of his approach.

The Junior Home Run Derby regional allowed each hitter 20 pitches per round -- whether they swung or not. Pitches were from a machine and judged by the feeder as to whether any pitches deserved a redo.

"I'd rather be able to take some," said Johnson, who plays for the East Coast 'Canes and hails from Titusville, Fla.

Bello, unlike Johnson, did not coast to the final round. He had to scrap his way in after tying for the fourth spot with four other hitters at two homers in Round 1. Bello blasted two more homers during a 10-pitch hit-off to secure his slot among the final four. In that second round, no one could match his four home runs -- which included one on his final pitch.

"In the games, I just go for line drives and that's all," Bello said of his approach. "In this, you have to hit home runs, so your swing changes a little bit -- but not that much."

Bello is from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and plays in that city's Little League. He said his favorite hitter is Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, without a doubt. Johnson said Angels outfielder Mike Trout is his favorite slugger.

Each winner received a special bat as a trophy and will travel to San Diego for All-Star Week on an all-expenses-paid trip with a designated guest and tickets to events such as the Home Run Derby.

The Junior Home Run Derby also includes regionals in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Diego. The derby is part of the MLB and USA Baseball Play Ball initiative, launched in 2015 to encourage children to play organized and pick-up baseball and softball. Learn more at

Zak Kerr is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.