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Chase Field hosts Pitch, Hit & Run event

PHOENIX -- Just like their Major League heroes, 24 kids from the age of 7 to 14 had a chance to punch their tickets to the 2014 All Star Game in Minneapolis on Sunday morning at Chase Field.

MLB Pitch, Hit & Run held one of 30 MLB team championship-round competition at Chase Field, and the winners in each age group -- 7-8-year-olds, 9-10-year-olds, 11-12-year-olds and 13-14-year-olds -- have a chance to participate in All Star Game festivities -- but first they needed to defeat the local competition, even if that wasn't the important topic that needed to be addressed.

"Do we get to keep the hats?" one child asked, holding the Pitch, Hit & Run caps given to each competitor.

Competitors in Pitch, Hit & Run showcase their abilities in -- as the name suggests -- pitching, hitting and running events.

As the sun started to shine brighter through the open Chase Field roof, the kids meandered onto the field, wearing cleats and carrying their bats and gloves.

Some were surely thinking about the upcoming competition -- what kid wouldn't want to go to the All Star Game? -- but some were awed by the sheer fact of where they were.

"We get to go in the dugout?" one said.

After taking their seats in the D-backs' dugout, the first task -- pitching -- began. The kids lined up as each age group was called and then tried hit a makeshift strike zone -- represented by a green banner -- with a pitch. Velocity didn't matter, just command.

One competitor, Jacob Stockton, who competed in the 11-12 boys division, hit the banner five times out of six attempts, making the banner pop loudly every time a pitch hit its mark.

Stockton said after he took first place in his division that he wants to be a pitcher, but Chase Field isn't where he wants to end up -- he sees himself at Dodger Stadium. But first he wants to go to Target Field this July.

"I think it'd be a good experience," he said.

Up next was hitting. Each competitor got three chances to hit a ball off a tee. Some hit the tee, others hit the ball 200 or more feet -- not quite threatening the spot Paul Goldschmidt hit on the video screen in center field, but showing off some power.

The final event -- the "run" portion -- was a 160-foot sprint from shortstop to home, where the competitors soon gathered to find out who won.

As the champions were crowned, the crowd of gathered parents and staff cheered. The winners don't automatically get to go to the All Star Game. Their results are compared with the winners from 29 other MLB team championship competitions -- one at each ballpark -- and the top three go to the All Star Game. The top three in each group will be announced on MLB Network on June 29.

But even if the kids who gathered at Chase Field on Sunday don't get to travel to Minnesota, the experience from Sunday will be good enough.

"It was a great experience for everybody," said Janelle Wakefield, the mother of 9-10-year-old boys division winner, Joshua. "The parents and the kids."

Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter for
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