Young athletes show off skills at Pitch, Hit & Run
Chase Field hosts kids ages 7-14 for annual competition
PHOENIX -- Fourteen-year-old Justin Wildman was one of the oldest kids on the field on Sunday morning at Chase Field for MLB Pitch, Hit & Run Presented by Scotts.
But when it came to this competition, Wildman was a rookie, having never participated in the three-part skills challenge. However, that inexperience didn't stop Wildman, a Phoenix native, from excelling against his peers.
Wildman was one of eight kids to win their respective age divisions at the D-backs team championship and be honored during a pregame ceremony on the field prior to Sunday's game against the Mets.
"Now I know how it feels like to run on the same ground that Paul Goldschmidt does and all the great D-backs that have played here," Wildman said. "It's just a fun experience."
Before getting to the diamond at Chase Field, the 12 boys and 12 girls who competed had to advance from a local competition in March or April and then one of the sectional competitions held at Spring Training facilities in Tempe and Gilbert during May. Of each of the four age groups, the top three scorers from the Team Championship level will get to participate in the national competition held in Cincinnati during All-Star week.
The competition involves three parts, testing hitting, pitching and baserunning skills. First, the kids hit three balls off a tee that are measured for distance and accuracy. Next, they get timed running from second base to home plate. Lastly, they throw six pitches at a target to see how many strikes they can get.
Pitch, Hit & Run representative Justin Perez said while he knows the kids are ready for the opportunity to run drills in a big league ballpark, he can also sense some anxiety when the competition is about to begin.
"More than anything than the excitement, they're also a little nervous," Perez said. "It's a big deal for them to come out here and be on a Major League ballfield."
In addition to Wildman, seven other participants took home first-place plaques from the D-backs team competition -- Ryan Madsen and Sophia Jara (7-8), Jason Ortega and Makena Cook (9-10), Derek Figueroa and Brooke Cohee (11-12), and Lorena Vasquez-Inzunza (13-14).
"It was fun and amazing," Wildman said. "To make it this far, it was just great to make it and play on Chase Field, which is just a great field to play on. It was just cool."
Now, Wildman and the other division winners at the D-backs team championship will have to wait for all of the team championships to be completed to see if they have qualified for the national competition.
But even if they don't, Perez said it's a reward in itself to be one of the best in the region.
"It's really nice that we're able to give this opportunity to kids," Perez said. "Even if they don't advance to the national finals, they got a Major League experience."