SEATTLE -- Jason Hassebrock's favorite player is James Paxton. Growing up watching the Mariners and catching the replays the next day allowed Hassebrock to become well acquainted with the Mariners' tall left-handed starting pitcher.But as Hassebrock hurled his last pitch, which he says is his best skill to conclude the
SEATTLE -- Jason Hassebrock's favorite player is James Paxton. Growing up watching the Mariners and catching the replays the next day allowed Hassebrock to become well acquainted with the Mariners' tall left-handed starting pitcher.
But as Hassebrock hurled his last pitch, which he says is his best skill to conclude the Scotts Pitch, Hit & Run event at Safeco Field on Sunday, he didn't think he did well enough to win. Thankfully, another inspiration helped him out at the plate earlier.
"It sounds a little bit weird, but my friend Eric," Hassebrock said. "I knew that he hit the ball well, and I just tried to hit like him."
A stellar performance at the plate allowed Hassebrock to win the baseball 13/14 age group, which directly followed the Mariners' 8-2 loss to the Astros.
The Port Orchard, Wash., native was one of 24 participants Sunday who took their skills to the Major League field. The kids, ranging from 7 to 14 years old, competed in three events -- pitching, hitting and running.
The 30 MLB team championships, which involved kids from across the country participating in big league ballparks, wrapped up Sunday with the event in Seattle. The top three scores in each division age group will advance to the National Finals during the week of the MLB All-Star Game presented by MasterCard. The finalists will hear their names called on MLB Network on Monday.
"I thought that it was an amazing experience and just fun to get out there and be able to play baseball, and do what I love," Hassebrock said.
All 24 participants attended the game and were recognized in a pregame ceremony. Other winners included Lucile Buckhotlz (7/8 softball) from Seattle; Aliah Karl (9/10 softball) from Edmonds, Wash.; Brianna Stevens (11/12 softball) from Portland, Wash.; Autumn Gaudet (13/14 softball) from Vancouver, Wash.; CJ Jones (7/8 baseball) from Eugene, Ore.; Davonn Abaga (9/10 baseball) from Seattle, and Jonathan Berus (11/12 baseball) from Seattle.
Each participant threw six pitches on flat ground near the visitor's dugout, tallying how many times they could hit the strike zone. During the batting portion, each of the 24 kids took three swings off a tee at home plate to see how far they could slug it. The running portion involved each participant running as fast as possible from second base to home plate.
If Hassebrock is selected for the National Finals, it'll be another memorable experience for him and his family, who have enjoyed his journey to get to this point.
"Just seeing him down there on the field and in the dugout hanging out with kids he didn't even know, and they're joking around and stuff like that, it was a baseball experience," said Kent Hassebrock, Jason's father. "It was great to see that. However, it turned out it was going to turn out. I didn't really care if he won, but when it was announced that he won, it was pretty cool."
Pitch, Hit & Run, the "Official Youth Skills Competition of Major League Baseball," 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.
Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle.