Chaltin and 23 other youngsters gathered for the "Official Youth Skills Competition of Major League Baseball," which invites kids to demonstrate their pitching, hitting and running abilities in baseball and softball. The competition coincides with the Play Ball initiative between Major League Baseball, USA Baseball and USA Softball, which encourages widespread participation in all forms of baseball/softball activities among all age groups, especially youth.
The second annual Play Ball Weekend features a variety of youth engagement activities by nearly 200 Major League and Minor League clubs to highlight the fun of youth baseball and softball. It is a complementary program of the Play Ball initiative, designed by MLB to celebrate youth baseball and softball participation. MLB has provided clubs with more than 300,000 youth plastic bat and ball sets to distribute in both ballparks and at community events.
Many MLB clubs are hosting skills and physical fitness clinics as well as surprise "takeovers" of youth baseball and softball games or practices featuring appearances by Major League players, alumni, mascots, public address announcers and more. Activities will include kids participating in special news conferences, pregame meet-and-greets and catches with players, ceremonial first pitches, public address duties, lineup card exchanges, taking the field with players, postgame running the bases and more. Major League players, coaches and managers will wear Play Ball Weekend patches during the weekend's games, and players on home clubs will wear custom T-shirts during batting practice on the date of their club's activations.
Teams that are on the road Saturday and Sunday will host their Play Ball Weekend activities during another homestand.
As for Saturday's competition, the children each tried their hand at taking swings off a tee, trying to hit a target with a baseball and sprinting around and through cones that represented the distance between second base and home plate.
Victoria Kuhn, the winner in the 13/14 softball division, wore a big smile as she completed her turn in the running competition. She was greeted by the other competitors telling her how fast she was, only to sheepishly downplay her accomplishment.
Upon finding out she took first in the division, that smile returned as Kuhn hugged the other winners and told the competitors in her age group she thought they had all done really well.
In addition to the competition, the regional winners were honored on the field before Saturday's game against the Cardinals -- the top competitors nationwide will go on to compete in the National Finals at Marlins Park in Miami during 2017 All-Star Week.
Other weekend high point involved local youth baseball and softball players taking the field before meeting players at each position. In addition, Clark, the team's mascot, was to surprise a local girls softball team with plastic bats and balls.
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.