ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – When the cap popped off the top of his son’s bat two days before he was going to Atlanta to participate in a Little League Home Run Derby competition, a cold sweat came over Mike Compliment.
“I was panicking,” he said.
Never fear. Cash Compliment’s friend, Samuel Wheeler, also used the Dirty South 31-inch, 23-ounce piece of aluminum and loaned it to him for the competition. And after reading about it on a message board, the CEO of the Dirty South company delivered a backup bat – and some swag – to Cash to SunTrust Stadium, home of the Atlanta Braves.
VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH CASH AND DAD
“That was the first time I’d ever been jealous of him, hitting on the big league field,” his father said. “I think I was more nervous than he was. He took it like a champ.”
Cash was money in the bank, belting 31 home runs to quality for the Little League World Series Home Run Derby along with three others in Atlanta. Four more players from the West Coast areas also advanced that day.
Compliment, who is from Ashland, Kentucky, and seven others will be competing for the championship on Saturday afternoon in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The competition will be televised on replay Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Little League World Series begins Thursday and includes Bowling Green East as the Great Lakes champion for the third time in the last five years.
“Maybe Kentucky will get a sweep!” Mike Compliment said. “We’ll be cheering for Bowling Green.”
The Compliments will be making the seven-hour drive to Williamsport on Thursday. “He’s taken us to our only two vacations this summer. It’s pretty cool,” his father said. Father and son flew to Atlanta with mom and his two sisters driving. But everybody is going together this time, Mike Compliment said.
Cash took his final batting practice Wednesday night in Ashland with his Little League coach Don Ashby throwing to him in a cage.
“I doubled the padding on the cage up,” Ashby said. “I didn’t want him sneaking one through and hitting me. He’s done that before.”
Cash’s father, a lefty, has thrown all the BP to his son until Wednesday. “It’s terrifying behind that L-screen,” he said.
Little League officials provide the pitcher in the competition. “They throw them where you want them,” Cash said. “I like it between the chest and chin.”
Cash, who is 12, has a smooth swing that could benefit him in the competition.
“Some of the kids in Atlanta swung so hard on every pitch,” Mike Compliment said. “They were worn out in the later rounds.”
Competitors get two minutes to take their cuts in each of three rounds. Cash swung and missed the first three pitches and then only hit two the rest of the first minute. But he drilled seven in the next minute to advance.
During a first-round competition in Ashland, he belted 51 home runs to advance to Atlanta.
“When they turned in the forms, Little League called our coach and said ‘Is this number for real?’’’ his father said.
Cash hit only four home runs in his last year of Little League this summer but “always hits the ball hard,” his coach said. “He’s a strong kid. He can miss a ball and still have the strength to hit it out. He’s scary when he comes up to the plate. You can see the kids start backing up when he’s up.”
Cash said his first home run came late in last year’s Little League season off his best friend, Colin Howard. “He threw it in there, I swung and it went (out),” he said.
His hometown of Ashland has rallied around Cash, who is a seventh-grader at Ashland Middle School.
“He’s enjoying his 15 minutes of fame,” his dad said.
“It couldn’t be happening to a better kid. He’s going to get an experience he’ll remember the rest of his life,” Ashby said. “To be one of eight kids in the country competing for a home run derby, that’s just amazing. And a kid from Ashland, Kentucky, who would have thought.”