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AT&T Park hosts Pitch, Hit and Run competition

Special to

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants hosted their Team Championship round of the Pitch, Hit and Run competition on Saturday afternoon, as 24 young competitors aged 7-14 showed off their skills on the big league diamond.

As the kids took turns at home plate, knocking baseballs into the outfield off a tee, Giants great Will Clark showed up in the home dugout to watch from behind the railing. Eventually, eight winners were crowned after competing in three events -- running 160 feet, trying to throw at a strike zone six times and hitting off the tee for distance.

"Hitting was my favorite part," 7-8 boys winner Mateo Rojas said. "That was fun."

Other winners included Allison Robinson (7-8 girls), Elise Walker (9-10 girls), Thomas Meyer (9-10 boys), Maddy Braz (11-12 girls), Sam Whiting (11-12 boys), Brittany Lusk (13-14 girls) and Mason Erskine (13-14 boys).

The San Francisco winners will post their best marks against their counterparts from the 29 other Major League clubs, before the top three nationwide in each age group will advance to New York for the final round during All-Star Weekend. The finalists for the Pitch, Hit and Run Competition presented by Scott's, the Official Lawncare Company of MLB, will be announced on June 30 on MLB Network. Until then, the San Francisco winners will have to wait.

"I'm not that nervous. Like this much," Rojas said, holding his thumb and index finger close together. "I've been on TV."

While the youngsters ran around on the field, their family members watched from seats above the Giants dugout as the only fans in the stadium. For Paula Miller, it was a bit surreal to watch her granddaughter, Sophia Kajani, run around the basepaths and step to home plate at AT&T Park.

"I'm a Dodgers fan and it's still cool to come here and see this," Miller said. "I've been a baseball fan since I was her age and this was exciting. Even waking up at 5 at the morning to get here."

This marks the 17th season MLB has held a skills competition, with more than 4,000 local Pitch, Hit and Run events taking place across North America. San Francisco hosted the top kids from Northern California.

"Some of these kids have never stepped on a field ever," event organizer Abby Lane said. "It's a really special experience for them to play on a Major League field. They watch their heroes play there every day. It's super rewarding just to see their faces. They get a little nervous, but it's OK. They're having a good time and it's a special experience."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to

San Francisco Giants