OAKLAND -- Hours before the A's hosted the White Sox for a Sunday matinee, two dozen skilled youngsters took the field at the Coliseum for the Oakland Team Championship round of the Pitch, Hit and Run program presented by Scotts, the official lawn care company of Major League Baseball. Boys and girls ages 7-14 competed in three rounds of events -- throwing pitches at a strike zone, hitting off the tee and running the bases -- before a winner was crowned in each player group.
More than 4,000 local competitions were held across North America in the initial rounds of the Pitch, Hit and Run program. The 24 participants on Sunday emerged as winners in the local and regional rounds before eventually making it to the Coliseum. Each team across the Major Leagues will hold a Pitch, Hit and Run event, before the top three from each age group nationwide will receive an all-expenses paid trip to New York to compete at Citi Field on All-Star Weekend.
For 11-year-old winner Renee Cho of Sacramento suburb Rancho Cordova, it was a memorable first experience at the A's ballpark.
"I've never even been to a game so this was really fun," Cho said. "This was amazing. I didn't think I could run that quick."
Cho was one of eight winners on the day, along with Jaylee Ojo (girls 7-8), Andrew Grennert (boys 7-8), Olivia Lee (girls 9-10), Gabriel Padilla (boys 9-10), Daniel Sayre (boys 11-12), Evelyn Andrews (girls 13-14) and Tyler Hartman (boys 13-14).
Sunday's event started with each competitor trying to hit a strike zone with six pitches, before they took three swings off a tee and tried to hit for distance, and wrapped up the event by running from second to home. Friends and family watched the event from the seats behind the A's dugout and bullpen, cheering and snapping photos along the way.
The eight winners from the Northern California and Reno areas were announced in a trophy ceremony after the events, and were featured in an on-field presentation before Sunday's game. Competitions at other Major League parks will continue throughout the month as MLB continues its 17th year in the youth skills program.
"It's rewarding for us," event organizer Bennett Mayfield said. "This is a year-round that's only hosted around the spring time. It's fun the whole time, but here you get to see the excitement on the kids' faces, because they haven't been on a big league baseball field before. So to see them be the only ones on the field and get the VIP treatment, it's very rewarding."