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Local kids make their All-Star bids in Cincinnati

Pitch, Hit & Run participants competed Saturday at Great American Ball Park

CINCINNATI -- Brooke Steinbrunner was out practicing softball with her father, Jeremy, for an hour and a half Friday night in preparation to take the field at Great American Ball Park on Saturday morning.

There was one piece of advice, in particular, that Jeremy gave his 14-year-old daughter before she competed in the Reds' team championship round of Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run event, sponsored by Scott's.

"Don't be nervous," he told Brooke. And according to Jeremy, "It paid off."

Steinbrunner won the 13- and 14 year-old girls' division competition in the event, which included hitting off a tee, pitching to a target and running from second base to home plate. More than 4,000 local competitions take place each year, with participants needing to advance through a local competition and sectionals to reach the team competition held in each Major League city between May 31 and June 29.

The top three winners from each age group among all 30 teams have the opportunity to compete in the national competition during All-Star Week on July 14 at Target Field in Minneapolis. The top three winners will be announced on June 29 on MLB Network.

"It was a great experience, it was really fun," Brooke said. "I practiced with my dad a lot and the work paid off."

Jeremy was proud of how Brooke competed, and he's thrilled that she will be considered for the opportunity to compete at Target Field during All-Star Week.

"It's awesome," he said. "She worked really hard and she worked her way all the way to here, and she deserves it, just like everybody else that worked hard and played hard."

Jeremy also said that what MLB is doing with this program to help youngsters learn and enjoy the game enhances the passion they already have for the sport.

"I think it's a good experience, because they can learn the game better, they can know what to look for, and the do's and don'ts of the game," he said. "To make it up here to any of the big league stadiums -- all the little kids grow up and want to be out there also, so this is a better experience for them as they get older, and one day maybe they'll be out there."

They very well might be out there one day. The program was started in 1997 as a way to get more kids back into the game of baseball. Two current Major Leaguers are past participants -- Twins outfielder Chris Parmelee and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer .

Pitch, Hit & Run representative Bennett Mayfield has been at different Major League ballparks all over the country the past weeks, and he will continue to visit more in the coming weeks as children compete to make the national competition. After Saturday's competition at Great American Ball Park, he said it's always a thrill to see the eyes of youngsters light up when they step onto the field.

"When it all boils down, yes, it's a competition and everybody's trying to do their best," Mayfield said. "But at the end of the day, everything from the 7- and 8-year-old kids stepping on the field of that size and magnitude for the first time, all the way to the parents -- myself included -- it's still a real big thrill to be a part of, and that is very rewarding."

Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for
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