Claremont’s boys of spring close season with home run derby

Harlem Turrentine had no problem keeping his eyes on the ball at the May 17 Claremont Little League Home Run Derby. The 12-year-old belted a record 45 homers in the final round. Courier photos/Peter Weinberger

by Peter Weinberger |

Baseball for kids of all ages is in full bloom, and even though Claremont Little League just ended its regular season, there’s a lot of game still to be played.

A tradition since 2010, the end-of-season home run derby has become a family favorite here in Claremont. Taking the lead from Major League Baseball, CLL designed a challenging, yet fun event where on May 17 more than 200 homers flew out of the park from 11 contestants. How does a player qualify? Hit at least one homer during the regular season.

2024 CLL Home Run Derby champion Harlem Turrentine hit a record 45 dingers in the final round. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

The goal was simple: see how many home runs one can hit before reaching 10 outs. An out was considered any hit that was not a home run. Foul ball, out. Ground ball, out. Fly ball that hits the outfield fence, out. Each competitor got to pick their own pitcher, which was usually a coach or family member. There were two rounds, the second narrowed the field from 11 to five.

The record for most home runs in derby competition was set last year, when Mattias Arredondo bashed 37. The previous record was 19, and this year Mattias was going for his third straight title. He hit 36, which was good for second place, with 12-year-old Harlem Turrentine setting a new record with an incredible 45 homers.

In the first round of derby competition on May 11 Harlem had just seven, good for fifth place, and just qualifying him to move on to the next round. A tall, lean athlete with huge hands and a quick, powerful swing, Harlem led the league in the regular season with nine dingers. He’s considered one of the best players in the league, and not just for his hitting: with shades of Shohei Ohtani, he’s also a formidable pitcher.

Harlem was first up in round two and immediately began drilling balls out of the park. By pitch number 15, he had only one out and 14 home runs. Clearly his slow start was old news. After making a few outs between homers, he went on a dinger streak that never seemed to end. At this point after taking so many swings, fatigue can emerge, but Harlem just kept crushing the ball. In the end, he had knocked a record 45 homers.

Mattias Arredondo won the home run derby in 2022 and 2023, when he was 10 and 11, and is CLL’s only two-time derby champion. He hit 36 this year, good for second place. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

Asked what it was like to hit so many home runs, Harlem confidently stated, “I should have hit more.”

As mentioned, Mattias tried to keep up with a homer streak of his own, but fell short with 36. Third place went to Efrain Corral with 27.

The power exhibition at the home run derby served to confirm among coaches that Claremont Little League has a strong group of athletes going into this year’s all-star competition. Last year CLL won the Southern California 9-11 Year Old Little League Baseball Tournament title, the city’s first Little League state championship since its 1959 inception. Most of those players are back this year, with a year of growth and their previous all-star experience under their belts. The hope, of course, is to do something unprecedented for Claremont: reach the Little League World Series at Williamsport, PA in August. Only eight teams from the U.S. qualify, so the journey is long and difficult.

Digital cameras can have a “rolling shutter effect” with fast moving objects. Such was the case with this photo of Efrain Corral swinging during the CLL home run derby competition.


Fans cheer on the kids at the May 18 home run derby. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


Contestants wait for their turn at the May 18 CLL Home Run Derby. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


There were plenty of players on hand to shag balls at the May 17 Claremont Little League Home Run Derby.


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