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Padres crown Pitch, Hit and Run champions

The youngsters took center stage Saturday morning at Petco Park, where the Pitch, Hit and Run Presented by Scotts team finals for the San Diego Padres took place.

Participants from Southern California and Southern Nevada, aged 7-14, competed in the event, featuring the top three regional qualifiers in four different age groups, with boys and girls competing separately. Eight champions were crowned.

Pitch, Hit and Run is a skills competition open to all youth players. It combines three events -- pitching accuracy, hitting distance/accuracy and speed from second base to home plate. The competitors receive one final score that totals their performance in the three events.

"It's free, so any kid has the opportunity to be here," said Pitch, Hit and Run representative Kate Viebrock. "Most kids have never even been to a game before, and yet they come here and they get to play on the field. It's a very special thing."

The competitors will be honored before Saturday night's game at Petco Park between the Padres and the Pirates.

Pitch, Hit and Run participants will compete across the country at all 30 Major League ballparks this summer, with the three highest scorers in each age group advancing to the finals. Those finals will be held in Cincinnati during All-Star week.

"That is exhilarating," said 11- to 12-year-old boys division champion Wyatt Rhinehart of Valley Center, Calif. "It's a Major League field, and the pros play here. It's an honor to be where they play."

Along with Rhinehart, Kieran Monroe of San Diego (7- to 8-year-old age group), Kurt Felix of Bunkerville, Nev., (9- to 10-year-old age group) and Kaleb Todokon of La Mesa, Calif., (13- to 14-year-old age group) took home titles in the boys division.

For the girls, Mya Bartlett of Las Vegas (7- to 8-year-old group), Michelle Kramer of San Diego (9- to 10-year-old group), Savannah Stanley of North Las Vegas (11- to 12-year-old group) and Adriana Thomason of Las Vegas (13- to 14-year-old group) were crowned Padres champions.

"Being on a professional field, that's my dream," said Thomason. "It's always my dream just to be on a softball field, but to be here is just such an amazing privilege."

To Thomason, however, Pitch, Hit and Run is about more than just competition. It's about more than just baseball and softball.

"I love meeting new people and just the opportunity that not everyone gets to have," said Thomason.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.
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