What's in a name?
Two players with big-league names squared off in the Triple-A Home Run Derby final Monday night.
Only one had Major League bloodlines, yet it was the other who walked away with the big prize.
Allan Dykstra, no relation to former New York Mets and Philadelphia outfielder Lenny Dykstra, edged Francisco Pena by one home run in the final round to win the Triple-A Home Run Derby before a crowd of 10,160 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Pena’s father, Tony, caught in the big leagues in the 1980s and 90s for Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston, Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox.
Representing the Omaha Storm Chasers, Pena led the six-player field after the first two rounds, when he hit eight home runs to seven for Dykstra and six for Indianapolis’ Matt Hague.
But Pena failed to hit a home run on his five swings in the final round. Dykstra, who plays for the Mets’ Triple-A team in Las Vegas, launched a home run to right-centerfield on his second swing to claim the crown.
“We’re just out here having a good time and I was happy to come out on top,” said Dykstra, a California native who played college baseball at Wake Forest.
It took him a second to realize he had won because a dining area for VIP guests -- covered by a protective netting -- was set up on the right side of the infield between first and second bases.
A left-handed hitter, Dykstra wasn’t exactly sure his high-arching hit was gone. But it landed a couple of rows into the bleachers.
The winning feeling was a long way from Dykstra’s earlier experience, when he failed to hit a ball out on his first six swings in the first round.
“The first couple are pretty tough,” Dykstra said. “There’s pressure on you and you come out here and it’s a little bit different with the people in the infield having dinner or whatever.”
But Dykstra hit home runs on his next three swings to stay in the hunt. He blasted four home runs in the second round, including a 409-foot shot to give him seven and leave him in second place.
The top two qualified for the final and it pitted a pair of former teammates. Pena and Dykstra were teammates in each of the last two seasons in the Mets system.
Pena is now with the Kansas City organization.
“My goal was to just make sure I beat Frank,” Dykstra said “It happened that we both were in the finals so it worked out great.”
Pena blasted five home runs in the first round to grab the early lead. He hit three more -- on consecutive swings -- in the second round to earn his spot in the final.
But he failed to hit another ball out of the park.
“I got a little bit tired at the end,” Pena said. “But we had fun and that’s what it’s all about is having fun.”
Two participants failed to hit any home runs on Monday night and one was a player expected to challenge for the championship.
Mike Jacobs, the only guy among the six participants who has actually hit a home run in the Major Leagues, stunningly went homerless in the first round. Jacobs has 100 big-league home runs, with 99 of them coming between 2005 and 2009 when he played for the New York Mets, Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals.
He hit 32 home runs in 2008 with Florida but he was 0-for-8 on his first-round swings and he was eliminated.
Matching his performance and fate was Durham Bulls outfielder Mikie Mahtook, a last-minute addition to the field. Mahtook was invited to participate after Toledo’s Mike Hessman, the all-time home run leader in Triple-A baseball, had to withdraw from All-Star festivities due to a knee infection.
With only eight home runs for the Bulls this season, Mahtook made solid contact on most of his eight swings. But they were line drives that stayed in the park.
“Not getting pitches in the air and not hitting them far enough,” Mahtook said. “Home run derby is tough. Normally you don’t try to hit home runs in batting practice. So it’s a little bit different of a dynamic for us, something that we don’t normally do. But it’s fun for the crowd and it’s fun for us.”