Atlanta's regional winners named in eight age/gender groupings
ATLANTA -- From every corner of Braves Country -- six different states in all -- 23 boys and girls ages 7-14 came to Turner Field on Saturday morning to show off their baseball fundamentals in the same facilities as their big league idols in the Pitch, Hit and Run Atlanta championship sponsored by Scotts.
Some of the competitors were first-timers, while others, such as 13-14 Boys winner Jackson White, were seasoned PHR veterans.
"I've done it every year since I was 7, except for last year when I broke my arm," said White, who also won his age group as a 12-year-old. "It wasn't nearly as nerve-racking because I've been here before."
After a pair of unorthodox disqualifications in her previous two competitions, 13-14 Girls winner Kiara Connor made the long drive to Atlanta from Columbus, Miss., worth it with a solid performance Saturday. Two years ago, Connor had finished third in her age group after missing home plate in the running portion of the competition; last year, she was placed in the wrong age group. She secured her victory by hitting the target four out of six times during the pitching competition, the event she considered to be her weakest before the competition started.
"I had competition, and I was nervous," Connor said. "I knew I'd done well after I did the running and stuff."
11-12 Girls winner Tabitha McCamey used traditional softball form to clinch her crown with five out of six on-target pitches. Her father, Johnny McCamey, encouraged her to stick with that form because of the comfort and consistency she found as she hit target after target.
"The whole tournament she's thrown underhand," McCamey said. "This is her fifth year pitching, and she plays on three teams this year."
The competition started off with one timed run from second base to home, followed by three swings for distance off a tee and six pitches for accuracy from 35 and 45 feet. Scores from each of the three events were added together to produce winners from each age group, who advanced to Saturday morning's competition after making it through two preliminary rounds at the local and sectional level.
All 30 Major League ballparks will host a regional championship and determine the first-place finishers in each age group for boys and girls. The scores are then compared to national results, and the top three scorers in each group will move on to compete during Major League Baseball's All-Star Week.
Win or lose, all competitors got a thrill out of walking -- and running -- the Turner Field grounds. The age-group winners were recognized before Saturday's game against the Giants.
"The Braves have always been one of my favorite teams, so being able to play there was pretty cool," White said.