By Fred J. Robledo
South Hills High School’s best kept secret is out of the bag.
David Denson, a 17-year-old senior who has never played for the Huskies’ baseball team because he competes for the ABD Academy and already is committed to play college ball at the University of Hawaii, turned heads at the prestigious Power Showcase Home Run Derby at Marlins Park in Florida earlier this week when he belted the longest tape-measure job in the park’s history.
Denson hit his mammoth blast during the showcase event that was held Dec. 27-30, but now that the homer has been posted on Youtube, it’s gone viral.
Denson, who won the seventh annual event with 19 eye-popping home runs, smacked a record 515-foot home run that bettered the bomb of Bryce Harper’s infamous home run in the same event in 2009 that measured 502 feet when Harper was 19. Harper now plays for the Washington Nationals and was the first-round pick in the 2010 MLB draft.
Denson, who spent his freshman year at Bishop Amat before transferring to South Hills his sophomore year, described the record homer he belted on New Years eve.
“It’s funny because during my whole trip to Florida everything went wrong,” Denson recalled. “The flight was bad, we had problems with the rental car and that day I hit (the 515-foot homer) everything was going wrong.
“But I remember stepping up to the plate and saying a little prayer in my head. I let one pitch go by and then put everything into the next one. When it took off I thought it would die down in center field, but my eyes didn’t see it. It kept going higher and higher and out of sight. I’m like man, ‘God is good.”
Denson, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound left-hand swinging first baseman, belted three home runs that traveled over 500 feet according to officials in attendance. Although he used an aluminum bat, Denson’s blast bettered anything hit in Major League Baseball in 2012. ESPNs home run tracker lists a 494-foot home run at Coors Field as the longest in MLB last season.
Denson was surprised to watch him home run on a local news station on Wednesday.
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls and text messages, but that was cool,” Denson aid of watching himself on television. “I noticed I’m on a lot of websites too.”
Denson, who also throws 90 MPH and will pitch this season, told longtime South Hills baseball coach Kevin Smith over the summer that he would play for the Huskies. The baseball season is a couple months away and Smith tried to keep the news of Denson playing under wraps, but now that Denson’s become a national story, that’s impossible.
“That’s absolutely unbelievable what he did at that park,” Smith said. “That’s just unbelievable power. I’ve got a smile from ear to ear. Guess everyone knows who he is now.”
There are several high school baseball teams that lose talented players to ABD (Amateur Baseball Development Academy) – a spring and summer league program that develops young prospects in hopes or earning a scholarship or being drafted to the Major League’s.
Smith understood that, but now he can’t wait to watch him on a daily basis.
“He’s been at our school (two years) and obviously you’re hoping he will play, but you also understand he has family decisions to make and you respect that,” Smith said. “During the summer I got a phone call from his dad who asked if he came out this year would I hold it against him (having not competed the two previous years). I thought, ‘are you kidding me.’
“He’s a great kid. I’ve got to know him a lot better. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching him play with us.”
Denson grew up playing little league with many of South Hills’ past and former players and thought he would regret it later if he didn’t play at least one year of high school baseball.
“I’m not going to get these years back,” Denson said. “For three years I’ve watched my friends play and thought I’ve got to give it a try. I’ve been so caught up in the spring league’s and everything else that I didn’t know what I missing out on. It’s my senior year and I love baseball, I might as well enjoy the experience of it all.”
Smith said MLB scouts, particularly a scout in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, thought it was important for Denson to play high school baseball his senior year. Denson’s family agreed, then approached Smith with the news.
“It’s awesome really,” Smith said. “To all of a sudden have a kid that has some pop and has the reputation that he has (with power). It’s a great situation for all of us.”