Picture the all-time great performances at Major League Baseball’s annual Home Run Derby.
You see Toronto Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. announcing his arrival with a whopping total of 91 homers, shattering the previous record by 30 bombs, in the 2019 Derby.
You see then Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper rocking a United States bandanna and slamming 45 dingers in a victorious display of American muscle during the ’18 Derby.
You see then Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton blasting a then record 28 homers in the first round of the of the 2008 Derby, finally realizing his prodigal potential before a national audience.
Helmetta native and Spotswood High School freshman Jennifer Pokropinski did not have the national audience that those Major League stars had.
But on Sept. 7 at the Hamilton Girls Softball Association fields in Trenton, Pokropinski put on a similar show.
At a United States Specialty Sports Association charity event benefitting the Susan G. Komen organization, which raises money for breast cancer research, Pokropinski participated in the Pink Ribbon Home Run Derby with about 50 other girls. Only she didn’t just participate.
She dominated, bashing six homers in the first round and four more in the championship round.
Pokropinski is not yet a varsity softball player but she is, like Guerrero Jr., Harper and Hamilton, already a home run derby icon—at least in central Jersey. And that’s enough for now.
“She was very excited and I was really excited too,” said Jennifer’s father, Joe Pokropinski. “I couldn’t have been prouder. But it was very nerve wracking watching her.”
Jennifer Pokropinski was less nervous than her father. She was totally poised at the plate, completely in her zone, just like Guerrero Jr., Harper and Hamilton.
The Spotswood freshman, who just entered high school two weeks ago, was actually more giddy about meeting two of her softball heroes, Alex Powers and Sierra Romero, two former Division 1 softball players and current National Pro Fastpitch players.
“Yeah she was more excited to meet the pros,” said Joe Pokropinski, laughing.
For Jennifer Pokropinski, Powers and Romero represent an ideal. They were both successful Division 1 softball players, at Florida State University and the University of Michigan, respectively.
Pokropinski plays travel softball for the Central Jersey A’s and she hopes to make the varsity team at Spotswood in 2020, her freshman spring. Her long-term ambition is to, like Powers and Romero, play Division 1 softball.
“She wants to play Division 1 but she knows you have to work at it,” said Joe Pokropinski.
That said, the father is already confident that the daughter can become a collegiate player.
“She can definitely play in college but D1 is best of the best, so you’re hoping for that,” he said.
College is still a long way off. For now, Jennifer Pokropinski will focus on making the varsity team at Spotswood. She can already blast home runs on high school length fields.
The home run derby fence in Trenton was 200 feet away, and Pokropinski was hitting some balls about 250 feet, into the backyards of nearby houses.
“She hits a lot of homers,” Joe Pokropinski said.