Lake Elsinore creating early storm on the Midway with pre-derby practice

A crack of the bat is a familiar sound to Colby Blueberg. Even as a 23  year old pitcher from Carson City, Nevada, maintaining a 1.42 ERA at the Class A Lake Elsinore Storm, he can respect the echo of horsehide contacting wood.

What he’s not used to is the sound of a splash landing.

That’s the sound that comes from launching a different kind of missile from the USS Midway.

“I don’t understand it.,” Blueberg said. “I’ve never seen it…any type of batting practice off of the Midway.

“I guess it’s a little bit different.”

Four players from the Storm are on the historic carrier-turned-museum testing out one of the most ambitious plans in minor league history – a unique home run derby on June 20th, just a couple weeks short of the MLB All Star Game 10 minutes down the street at PETCO Park. Rather that send home runs over the fence of their own facility, or at a nearby college, instead the baseballs will fly into the San Diego Bay as patrons look on from the deck of the Midway.

Thursday’s practice serving two purposes – allowing the players to get a feel for what smashing home runs hundreds of feet above literal sea level is like, and allowing a test of the trajectory technology that will measure distance and location.

During the derby, there will be targets placed in the water for players to attempt to hit. They’ll get real time feedback for how far or how foul balls are. It will be as if the diamond and grass are invisible.

“It’s a historic ship and has its [place] in history,” Storm infielder Trae Santos said. “It’s an honor to come out here and have some .”

Being on the ship is special, but it means even more to River Stevens. His father-in-law Jeffrey A. Hovland served on the ship in the 1980s in the engine room.

“This was his first home in the Navy,” Stevens said. “He said he’s got his name carved in here somewhere.”

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