WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run event came to Nationals Park on Sunday morning for the Washington team championship.
The competition, which was held in left field, includes four age divisions for both boys and girls: 7-8 year-olds, 9-10 year-olds, 11-12 year-olds and 13-14 year-olds. Three boys and three girls participated in each division.
The day started with the pitching competition. Each participant threw six softballs -- 11-inches for 7-10 year-olds and 12-inches for 11-14 year-olds -- or baseballs at a 17-by-30-inch target that reflects a standard strike zone. Girls threw from 35 feet, while boys threw from 45 feet.
The next event was hitting, which required both distance and accuracy batting off a tee toward center field. Each kid was allowed three swings, but only the best of the three hits counted toward his or her overall score.
The last part of the event was the running competition, where kids were timed legging out the equivalent of a Major League double.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids to have a chance to come out as a big league player does and play out here on this field," said Amy Ashbrock, who ran the event and has been a part of Pitch, Hit & Run for 12 years. "That's one of their dreams come true, just being here on the field today."
Pitch, Hit & Run allows MLB to provide kids from local communities a free chance to get involved in baseball. It stands primarily as a recreational event, but Ashbrock said there is a still competitive edge, because each participant is vying for a spot in the National Finals, which will take place the week of the All-Star Game in Minneapolis, Minn.
"I just like seeing the smiles on their faces light up," Ashbrock said. "They're nervous as heck today, but it's all good nerves."
The top three scores in each age and gender division out of all 30 Major League teams will earn an all-expenses paid trip to All-Star Weekend. National finalists will participate in the Pitch, Hit & Run event before shagging balls in the outfield at the Home Run Derby.
Saturday was the third step in the qualifying process for the 24 girls and boys. They all began by competing at their respective local competitions. After that, they went on to win their sectional event to earn a spot at Nationals Park.
"It gives them the opportunity to come and see what they can strive for as baseball players and softball players," said Jeff Shuey, the father of Forrest Shuey, who competed in the 13-14 year-old division. "To play in the facility like this is the ultimate goal of the kids."
7-8 Girls Division First: Jaylan Powroznick; Prince George, Va. Second: Madison Sobota; King George Va. Third: Abigail Riley; Clifton Forge, Va.