If he never throws another pitch, former El Segundo High standout Zak Shinall made history Tuesday by giving up the longest home run ever hit at Cashman Field in Las Vegas and one of the longest ever in the Pacific Coast League.
Pitching for the triple-A Albuquerque Dukes, Shinall gave up a ninth inning leadoff home run to Las Vegas Stars outfielder Dave Staton that was estimated to have traveled more than 550 feet.
Reminiscent of the final scene in "The Natural," Staton hit a fastball that ricocheted off the scoreboard, crushed light bulbs and set off an electrical spark. The ball then disappeared into the darkness of the desert.
The scoreboard is 30 feet high on a berm. A sign atop the scoreboard reads "474 feet."
"The ball hit the scoreboard with plenty of power," Las Vegas Stars media director Bryan Dangerfield said. "Even if the ball dropped drastically, it would have traveled 500 feet easily. There is a road with a gutter that is 580 feet away. Our best guess is that the ball went from 580 to 614 feet."
In "The Natural," Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, hits a game-winning home run that crashes into a light standard to create a shower of sparks that cascade onto the field. Staton's home run was not as dramatic, though, accounting for just one run in a 5-3 loss to the Dukes.
Shinall (9-3) got the victory in relief, but Staton, a former Cal State Fullerton standout, earned the accolades.
"My teammates couldn't believe it," Staton said. "Their jaws were still dropping well after I got back to the dugout. Everyone from both teams said it was the farthest they've ever seen a ball hit."
Shinall tipped his hat to Staton as he circled the bases.
"He didn't miss much of it," Shinall said. "It was the longest home run I've ever given up, and I don't give up many home runs."
Shinall and Staton have staged many battles since they first met in the Class A California League in 1988. Shinall played for Bakersfield and Staton for Riverside, which has since moved to Adelanto, Calif., and been renamed High Desert.
"He's done a very good job on me the last two years," Staton said.
Trailing, 2-1, the Dukes scored four runs in the top of the ninth on two home runs. When Shinall came to bat, he was hit in the back by Stars reliever Gene Harris.
Shinall, who entered the game with one out in the eighth, thought the best way to retaliate would be to retire the Stars in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Staton was the leadoff batter and he fell behind on the count before hitting a fastball for his home run.
"I didn't give the Reggie Jackson-look and stand at the plate," Staton said. "I wouldn't blatantly show up a pitcher like that. If a pitcher strikes me out, I don't expect him to pump his fist and do a little dance on the mound.
"I just hit a home run and jogged around the bases. I don't want to make a spectacle about it."
But it did cause a stir. Staton's home run is believed to be the longest hit at Cashman Field since Kevin McReynolds, now with the Kansas City Royals, drove a ball approximately 530 feet in 1983, the first year the Padres had a team in Las Vegas.
PCL historian Bill Weiss said he knows of only two other home runs that were hit farther, but he said it would take more research to give a definitive answer. In 1929, Roy Carlyle of the defunct Oakland Oaks hit a home run that traveled more than 600 feet at Oaks Ballpark. In 1944, Neill Sheridan of the defunct Sacramento Solons hit one nearly 600 feet at Doubleday Field in Sacramento.
Dangerfield said the Stars have hired a surveyor to measure Staton's home run. In the meantime, Shinall has to pay for the cost of his mistake.
"(The Stars) sent me a bill to pay for the lights," Shinall said, jokingly. "That home run will cost me at least five dollars."