PHOENIX -- Twelve-year-old Marcos Smith stood in the batter's box at Chase Field on Sunday morning, the same one that his favorite player, D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, stands in on a daily basis.Then, just like Goldschmidt often does, Smith, a Tempe resident, rounded third base and sprinted home.Smith was
PHOENIX -- Twelve-year-old Marcos Smith stood in the batter's box at Chase Field on Sunday morning, the same one that his favorite player, D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, stands in on a daily basis.
Then, just like Goldschmidt often does, Smith, a Tempe resident, rounded third base and sprinted home.
Smith was one of 24 kids, ages 7-14, from Arizona and New Mexico that participated in the team competition of the Scotts Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run program.
"It was pretty cool actually getting to walk on an MLB field," said Smith, who won the 11- to 12-year-old baseball division.
The 24 kids advanced from local and sectional competitions that have taken place since March. Each of MLB's 30 clubs then hosts a team portion of the national competition.
There are four age divisions for both baseball and softball. The top three scorers in the nation from each age group earn a trip to the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard in San Diego.
The competition features three parts -- pitching, hitting and running. First, each participant has six chances to throw as many strikes at a target as possible. They then take three swings off a tee, the hits measured for distance and accuracy. The last portion features a timed run from second base to home.
Smith was one of four first-place finishers in the baseball divisions. The others were Ryan Harwood (7-8), Luke McInelly (9-10), and Rhett Stokes (13-14).
The softball division winners were Aubrey Smith (7-8), McKenna Martin (9-10), Brooke Cohee (11-12), and Daniela Lopez (13-14).
Winners will have to wait until June 27 to see if they qualified for the national finals, which take place during All-Star week festivities. The announcement will be made on MLB Network.
"I didn't really expect to get this far," Smith said. "It's amazing."
Pitch, Hit & Run representative Matt Engleka said the program was created 20 years ago to get baseballs and bats back in the hands of children.
"What this program does is creates memories, memories that will last a lifetime for these kids because they may never have the chance to be on a Major League field again," Engleka said. "The best part about it is when they walk out onto the field and it's the greenest grass they've seen, it's the cleanest, finest manicured field in the world, and they're saying, 'I'm standing where my heroes and my idols do.'"
Jake Rill is a reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix.