Party hearty: Napoli taps into big-time power

Slugger swats 463-foot shot for Indians' longest HR of year

Party hearty: Napoli taps into big-time power

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Napoli did not see the baseball land. After he took his mighty hack, the Indians slugger put his head down and began his trot. He knew it was gone. Napoli heard the gasp of the crowd, and the shouting from the visitors' dugout at Target Field.

"I knew I hit it pretty good," Napoli said after the Indians' 5-4 win over the Twins on Friday night.

Pretty good? Napoli absolutely crushed a breaking ball from Minnesota right-hander Tyler Duffey to open the fifth inning. The shot soared into the night and crashed into the third deck well above and beyond the left-field wall. Few players put baseballs there, and even fewer fans with tickets to those seats bring a baseball glove to the ballpark.

This is old hat for Nap, though. The veteran first baseman has been flashing his prodigious power all season. This particular feat of strength broke a 4-4 tie and put Cleveland on its way to a ninth win in 11 games, keeping the club's division lead at six games over the Tigers in the American League Central. It marked Napoli's 32nd home run of the season and gave him a career-high 93 RBIs. 

It was also the longest, and hardest-hit home run of the year for a Cleveland batter.

"That's good for bragging rights," Indians outfielder Rajai Davis said. "That's an awesome, great feeling. I don't think I've ever hit the ball that far in batting practice. He's doing it in games. That's awesome. We can all admire that."

According to Statcast™, Napoli's game-changing blast traveled 463 feet and came with an exit velocity of 112 mph. As it happens, Napoli hit a baseball 464 feet with an 113-mph exit velocity in the third inning on Thursday night in Cleveland. That one cleared the Home Run Porch at Progressive Field and bounced into Gateway Plaza, where a fan walking into the game wound up with an unlikely souvenir. That one, however, was foul.

What's it like to hit a ball that far?

"I wouldn't know," Indians manager Terry Francona quipped. "I can't even hit a golf ball that far."

Once back in the dugout, teammates pointed to the stands to show Napoli where it landed. It was not until later in the clubhouse on video that he actually got a look at the ball's final resting place.

The home run that will be remembered for years to come by Tribe fans is probably the one he blasted on July 8 against the Yankees. In the third inning of that tilt, Napoli pulled a pitch from Chad Green to left field at Progressive Field, where the ball one-hopped the back wall above the bleachers. The baseball nearly took out long-time Indians fan John Adams, who kept banging his drum as the ball bounced in front of him.

"How high and far they go is the most impressive thing," Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall said. "He's so strong. We see it all the time in BP. It's nice to do it in front of a live crowd."

Napoli appears to be heating up at the right time, too.

Friday's solo shot marked his third home run in the past five games, following a power outage that spanned 89 plate appearances and dated back to Aug. 11. Over his career, Napoli has had a knack for hitting home runs in bunches, and the past handful of games look like one of those peaks on the other side of an offensive valley.

"I feel a lot more comfortable," Napoli said. "I was going through a period where I was just trying to grind out at-bats until I find it. But, I've been feeling better and better at-bat by at-bat. I feel like I'm going in the right direction."

The bruised baseball he hit can attest to that.

"Hey, swing hard just in case you hit it," Napoli said with a laugh.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.