Pitch, Hit & Run competitors enthused
Winners of competition hosted by Mariners could advance to national finals
SEATTLE -- There were a few tears, plenty of smiles and one giant yell of "Happy Father's Day!" from the 24 competitors in the Mariners Team Championship of Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run competition on Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field.
The competition, which tabulates scores based on an athlete's timed run from second base to home plate, three swings off a tee and six throws at a target, comprises four levels: Local, Sectional, Team Championship and National Finals.
All 24 athletes who competed Sunday won their respective Local and Sectional competitions across the greater Pacific Northwest to earn the opportunity to compete at Safeco Field.
Boys and girls aged 7 to 14 competed in eight divisions broken up by gender and age. The eight winners from Sunday's Mariners competition will have their scores compared to the scores of the winners from the other 29 team competitions, and the three highest scores will be announced June 28 on MLB Network. Those athletes will compete on July 13 before the All-Star Home Run Derby in the National Finals.
Dylan Jockumsen, of Pocatello, Idaho, won the boys 11- to 12-year-old division and said competing on the grass and infield dirt at Safeco Field was an experience he will never forget.
"It was probably the best experience of my life in baseball," Jockumsen said. "It was super fun and everybody did well. I thought I was going to lose at first, but it was just awesome."
Jockumsen said pitching is his strong suit in the Pitch, Hit & Run competition and that he's excited as he waits to hear the news about whether he will qualify for the National Finals.
Elyssa Castro of Vancouver, Wash., won the 11- to 12-year-old girls competition with her family and her softball coach, Laurie Wakefield, in attendance.
"My coaches were just encouraging me and telling me that it would be OK," Castro said. "It was nice but I was a little nervous."
Those nerves extended to Wakefield and Castro's family, who were on edge as the results of the competition were tabulated.
"We were so excited because we knew it was really close," Wakefield said. "I bet it was just a tiny bit [separating the competitors]."
Wakefield said she and Castro have been working hard in preparation for the competition, focusing in particular on controlling the location of the ball when Castro hits off the tee.
On Sunday, that practice paid off and Castro now has a first place, home-plate-shaped plaque to prove it.
"She did awesome," Wakefield said with a smile.