CLEVELAND -- In his final year participating in the annual Scotts MLB Pitch, Hit & Run event at Progressive Field, Chaz Neuenschwander finished the competition on top.Neuenschwander -- a native of Willshire, Ohio -- claimed the first-place plaque in the 13/14 baseball division on Saturday morning in the competition's 21st
CLEVELAND -- In his final year participating in the annual Scotts MLB Pitch, Hit & Run event at Progressive Field, Chaz Neuenschwander finished the competition on top.
Neuenschwander -- a native of Willshire, Ohio -- claimed the first-place plaque in the 13/14 baseball division on Saturday morning in the competition's 21st annual contest. It marked the third time that Neuenschwander has taken part in the competition, and the second consecutive year he has won the first-place prize.
"This is my last year for Pitch, Hit & Run," Neuenschwander said. "Yeah, I will remember this and I will remember winning in my last time competing. It was a very cool experience."
The 24 participants were split into four divisions in both baseball and softball, which consisted of three competitors depending on age. In the two-hour competition, each contestant went through pitching, hitting and running stations in left and center field while their family members watched from the stands on the third-base line.
Each contestant wasn't a veteran like Neuenschwander, however, as several kids were participating in the competition for the first time. One of the first-timers was Taylor Lemaster (Oak Harbor, Ohio), the winner of the 13/14 softball division.
"I was a little nervous because I didn't know who I was expecting to be here and who I would be competing against." Lemaster said. "[My parents] told me to just do what I do best."
The contest began with pitching, as participants threw six pitches into a pitching net, trying to locate the ball in the strike zone. This was followed by the hitting portion of the competition, where they took three swings off a tee in the left-field corner, hitting the ball across the outfield.
"My favorite part of the day was probably my hitting," Neuenschwander said. "I probably could have centered it out a little bit, though.
The final part of the event was baserunning. Because the tarp was on the infield, bases were placed in the outfield grass for this station. Each contestant was timed as they ran from second to home.
"The station I liked best was running," said Micah Nolan (Warren, Ohio), the first-place winner in the 11/12 baseball division.
Along with Neuenschwander and Nolan, Tyson Culp (Bettsville, Ohio) and Caleb Lehman (Celina, Ohio) won first-place in the 9/10 and the 7/8 baseball divisions, respectively. For softball, Kendra Culler-Gautschi (Huron, Ohio) in the 11/12 division, Brittyn Bruns (Rockford, Ohio) in the 9/10 division and Elly Evarts (Gibsonburg, Ohio) in the 7/8 division joined Lemaster as the first-place finishers.
The winners of each division were set to be honored in a pregame ceremony on the field on Saturday before the Tribe's game against the Twins.
The top competitors nationwide from each age group will have a chance to compete in the National Finals in Miami during MLB All-Star Week at Marlins Park.
Pitch, Hit & Run, the "Official Youth Skills Competition of Major League Baseball," invites kids to demonstrate their pitching, hitting and running abilities in both baseball and softball. The competition takes place in conjunction with the "PLAY BALL" initiative between Major League Baseball, USA Baseball and USA Softball. The initiative encourages widespread participation in all forms of baseball and softball activities among all age groups, especially the youth.
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.