SEATTLE -- The Mariners ran around Safeco Field celebrating their walk-off win against the Giants on Sunday evening, acting much more like kids than Major League ballplayers. Soon thereafter, 24 kids descended upon Safeco Field acting much more like veteran athletes.
The Mariners held the Team Championships of Pitch, Hit & Run after Sunday's game, hosting kids from all over the Northwest. Split into age groups and gender, eight champions were crowned and will have their scores compared to others around the nation. The top three in each division will earn a spot in the National Finals at the All-Star Game in Kansas City.
Even though many of the kids went home without the first-place plaque, the experience will be one that won't easily be forgotten. That much is especially true for Matt Collett, who was participating in the 11/12 age group and came all the way from Victoria, British Columbia. The participants were able to go on the field before the game and met a few Mariners. One of those players was Victoria native Michael Saunders.
"I thought it was really cool because he's from my hometown and we both like baseball," said Collett, who added that he has seen Saunders play for Triple-A Tacoma a few times.
Collett was also quick to add that while his favorite player is Robinson Cano, he's a loyal Canadian and roots for the Blue Jays.
Just because the kids were participating at Safeco Field didn't mean they were just happy to be there. To qualify for the Team Championships, they first had to win local and sectional competitions. Andrew Canady of Port Orchard, Wash., gave the crowd of parents above the third-base dugout something to cheer about when he launched a hit well into center field.
Was that the farthest ball he's hit?
"Not even close," Canady said.
PHR participants try to accumulate the most points throughout the three events. The hitting event is calculated by distance and accuracy, the pitching event on how many times a contestant can hit a target in six attempts and the running portion on speed.
Canady is hoping to earn a trip to the All-Star Game after his performance in the boys 13/14 age group, but even if he doesn't, the Mariners fan will always have Sunday's memory.
"Oh man, it was awesome, it was like nothing before," Canady said. "It was great going on the field, seeing Michael Saunders and just being here to do this."
Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com.