MIAMI -- Jennie Sandoval had never thought about playing baseball or softball before she and a few friends stumbled upon the Play Ball Home Run Derby held outside of Marlins Park on the West Plaza before Saturday's 9-6 Marlins win over the Rockies."It gets us entertained and want to come
MIAMI -- Jennie Sandoval had never thought about playing baseball or softball before she and a few friends stumbled upon the Play Ball Home Run Derby held outside of Marlins Park on the West Plaza before Saturday's 9-6 Marlins win over the Rockies.
"It gets us entertained and want to come to an actual baseball game," the 19-year-old said. "I actually want to play softball as a sport now."
Sandoval was one of the many participants that took swings in the open event, just one of 10 the Marlins are hosting as part of their Play Ball Weekend that began on Thursday and runs through Sunday.
• Play Ball Weekend
Derby contestants took five cuts each, and upon knocking a pitch over the fence, were rewarded with a Marlins baseball.
Meghan, 10, played baseball for a year in her hometown of Pittsburgh. She and her family were in Miami for a cruise and stopped by Marlins Park to catch Saturday's game. She couldn't pass up the opportunity to show off her long ball abilities.
"I liked it because it entertained kids like me while we were waiting at the gate," Meghan said.
As Meghan blasted balls over the fence to both left and right, one participant, Jordan Del Sol, gawked at her swing. He said it's awesome to see baseball so prevalent among the youth.
"Especially in this community, it's a big baseball community," the 22-year-old said. "Look at this girl, how old is she? She's putting the ball over the fence. It's definitely farther than mine."
Major League Baseball launched the Play Ball initiative to encourage participation in all forms of the sport among all age groups, especially youth. The initiative focuses on playing baseball in various ways outside of traditional leagues and tournaments, such as playing catch, stick ball and kick ball.
The Marlins will wrap up Play Ball Weekend by holding a Father's Day Catch with Dad event on the field after Sunday's game. The club is also hosting the Baseball Tomorrow Fund Equipment Drive at the park through Sunday.
Patrick Pinak is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami.