Astros’ Orbit takes off with surprise win in Mascot Home Run Derby

NEW YORK — Chris Davis, Prince Fielder and Pedro Alvarez aren’t the only power-hitters going for glory during the MLB All-Star festivities. With all due respect to the star sluggers slated to send moonshots over the Citi Field fence in Monday night’s All-Star Home Run Derby, fans can enjoy another exciting power display by team mascots at the 2013 T-Mobile All-Star FanFest. That’s right, the popular Mascot Home Run Derby, now in its 11th year, is back again at FanFest at the Jacob Javits Center where team mascots compete on behalf of children from New York area Boys & Girls Clubs.

On Friday, the first of four home-run hitting contests started off with a bang. In a stunning turn of events that sent shockwaves through the close-knit baseball mascot community, defending champion and heavily favored T.C. Bear of the Minnesota Twins was ousted in the first round. The Houston Astros’ fuzzy green alien mascot, Orbit —  making his Mascot Home Run Derby debut after his return to the team after a 12-season absence in space — eliminated the Nationals’ Screech the Eagle to advance to Monday’s finals.

Orbit has been training for this day since he left for outer space in 2000.

“This is Orbit’s first All-Star Game in over 12 years,” Orbit said through an interpreter. “It’s been a long time since he’s been back on Earth so he’s had all the time in the world. Of course baseballs in outer space are a lot lighter and so getting back to Earth it took him a while. He’s been back since November and he knew that he’d really have to represent for his first All-Star Game. So he did a lot of calisthenics, some yoga, some Pilates that kind of stuff.”

The competition started off slowly with the Giants’ Lou Seal eliminated early in the action after just a single home run in his first at-bat. No matter for Lou, he still had his gold World Champion San Francisco Giants belt to show off as he left the field. With T.C., Screech and Orbit in a three-way tie after the first round (with a less-than-impressive two home runs apiece), Mascot Home Run Derby rules called for a tiebreaking Dizzy Bat Race. It was that race that proved to be Orbit’s edge.

T.C. became so disoriented by the dizzy bats that he stumbled on the basepaths, fell over first base and lay on the field in a prone position for a few minutes, signaling his withdrawal from the competition. T.C. could not be reached for comment, likely due to the after-effects of the race.

UPDATE WITH BREAKING MASCOT HOME RUN DERBY NEWS: T.C. Bear provided the following comment via Twitter: “I was defeated in a completely stupid tiebreaker. We have never liked the [Dizzy Bats Race] tiebreaker and after today, there will never be another one, as two people were run into. And I took a pretty serious spill that wasn't planned as I tripped over a television cable.”

Screech and Orbit seemed to have no issues with the dizzying effects. The secret to Orbit’s success? Physics.

“The great thing about Orbit is because he’s so round it kind of balances himself out so some of the skinnier guys can’t quite hold a candle to that,” Orbit explained. “But when you’ve just been going around and around and around, and of course Orbit’s used to going around and around and around because he’s an alien from outer space and his name is Orbit, so it’s second nature for him to be spinning and spinning and spinning and spinning and then gradually walk like it’s nothing. So running the bases after spinning for a really long time is no problem especially in zero g’s doing a lot of stuff like that.”

In the final round of the competition, Orbit hit four home runs and waited for Screech the Eagle to take to the tee. Screech failed to go yard. Orbit will be in the Mascot Home Run Derby finals on Monday at 12 noon ET at FanFest.

“It feels great,” Orbit said of his win. “Out of this world, as we like to say.”

For details regarding the 2013 T-Mobile FanFest, visit the website. The Mascot Home Run Derby Finals will take place on Monday, July 15 at 12 pm ET.

Photos courtesy of Amanda Rykoff