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Mascot home run derby a hit
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07/10/2004  8:16 PM ET
Mascot home run derby a hit
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
John Greenleaf from Century 21 congratulates James Endsley, a B&GCA member and winner of the Dream Clubhouse, and his derby partner Junction Jack of the Astros, who was champion of the Mascot Home Run Derby. (Christie Cowles/MLB.com)
HOUSTON -- The team mascots were swinging for the fences on Saturday morning at the John Hancock All-Star FanFest. Kids and parents filled the bleachers at the Diamond field to watch mascots show off their stuff at the third annual Century 21 Mascot Home Run Derby.

Each of the mascots was paired up with a child from the Houston area Boys & Girls Clubs of America (B&GCA). The mascots were competing not only for the derby title, but for a chance to win their B&GCA partner a Century 21 Dream Clubhouse.

Junction Jack of the Houston Astros was the champion mascot, and James Endsley, 11, was the lucky winner of the clubhouse.

"It feels great," said Endsley. Junction Jack belted a homer over the center field fence to win the competition. As soon as he hit it, everyone knew it was going over the fence.

"I felt he was going to win," said Endsley.

2004 All-Star FanFest

When asked where he was going to put his new clubhouse, the excited Endsley said, "I don't know yet."

Not only did Junction Jack win this year, he is the all-time champion, as he has won each of the mascot derbies since the event started in 2002.

"This is the third year Century 21 sponsored the mascot home run derby, it's an exciting event not just for the kids but for the mascots," said John Greenleaf, Senior Vice-President of Marketing for Century 21. "They prepare for it all year and you can see with the home run that Junction Jack hit to win it this year, it was really an exciting event."

The format of the mascots' derby was similar to the original Home Run Derby the All-Star players will compete in on Monday night at Minute Maid Park. The mascots competed in three rounds in the youth-sized field. They took turns trying to hit the most home runs they could off of a tee. Each inside the park hit was considered an out, so the mascots were swinging with all their might to send the brightly-colored plastic baseballs out of the field.

"It gives the kids a chance to really emulate what the players are doing on Monday night, so it's a great event for us," said Greenleaf. "It's wonderful for [Junction Jack] to have a three-peat right here in his hometown of Houston. I don't know whether it's just natural ability or he just trains and practices for it, but he's very, very good at it. It was impressive."

Joining Junction Jack in the derby were his mascot friends from around the league: Mariner Moose from Seattle, Mr. Met from New York, Gapper from Cincinnati, Rangers Captain from Texas, Paws from Detroit, Pirate Parrot from Pittsburgh, Raymond from Tampa Bay, Stomper from Oakland, Dinger from Colorado and Homer from Atlanta. They were joined by two referee bird mascots from Century 21 in the outfield.

Mariner Moose, Mr. Met and Gapper joined Junction Jack in the second round after smacking three home runs each in the first round. In the second round, the four mascots all hit one homer, leading to the four-way tie. In the third round, the Houston native prevailed, as he was the only mascot to hit the ball out of the park in the round.

It was quite a treat for the B&GCA kids to see all the mascots competing and playing in field together. The mascots were up to their usual antics, teasing each other and trying to distract each other when they were up to bat.

The mascots were serious competitors as they tried to earn the clubhouse for their B&GCA kids. They would point to the outfield when they were up to bat, signaling their confidence that they would belt out a home run. It didn't always help their home run chances, but it seemed to help in intimidating the other mascots and amusing the kids in the bleachers.

A couple of mascot "brawls" broke out when other mascots were accidentally hit with a ball or they didn't like their fellow mascots' teasing. But it was all fun and games in the end, as they all ran to hug and congratulate Junction Jack when the competition was over.

Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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