PHILADELPHIA -- For about two hours on Saturday morning, young baseball and softball players from the Greater Philadelphia region burrowed in the same Citizens Bank Park dugout populated this week by the Yankees' Aaron Judge. They stood in the same batter's box where the Phils' Rhys Hoskins slugs home runs.That
PHILADELPHIA -- For about two hours on Saturday morning, young baseball and softball players from the Greater Philadelphia region burrowed in the same Citizens Bank Park dugout populated this week by the Yankees' Aaron Judge. They stood in the same batter's box where the Phils' Rhys Hoskins slugs home runs.
That was "pretty cool" for Gavin Hawkes and Callan Fang, teammates from Yardley, Pa., and fans of the Yankees and Phillies, respectively.
"It's a lot different than watching on TV," Hawkes said. "It feels bigger when you're actually down there."
Hawkes and Fang were two of the 24 competitors at the Phillies' ballpark for the 22nd year of Major League Baseball's Scotts Pitch, Hit & Run program. It's all part of the PLAY BALL initiative between MLB and USA Baseball, which encourages widespread participation in all forms of baseball activities among all age groups, especially youth.
"It's something that they take back to their local communities, their hometowns," said Kabir Faiz, account coordinator for Pinch, Hit & Run and the man in charge on Saturday. "It's obviously something that they brag about to their friends, as well.
"But, overall, Pitch, Hit & Run is a great program that hits on the fundamentals of the game. Regardless of how you perform out here today, you're going to take something out of this competition."
Saturday's Team Competition began with the pitching portion, in which players threw a ball at a strike-zone target. Next, they got three swings to hit a ball off a tee as far and straight possible. Finally, their speed was measured with a sprint from first to third base.
Three individuals from each division -- split between baseball and softball, ages 7-14 -- emerged from local and sectional rounds to qualify for the Team Competition held at all 30 MLB ballparks. From there, first-place finishers -- including Fang, who won the 13-14-year-old Baseball Division -- have a chance to qualify for the National Finals during All-Star Week at Nationals Park. Finalists will be announced on MLB Network this Monday, July 2.
After adding up the points and awarding home plate-shaped plaques to the participants, Faiz stood on the field and discussed what he likes about a job that takes him all over the country to run team competitions at various ballparks. In each city, Philadelphia included, the best part is always the kids.
"You see nothing but smiles on their faces," Faiz said. "It is a little nerve-racking for them when they first get onto the field, obviously, [and] shake off the nerves a little bit when they start doing the skills. After that, you can see that they really enjoy and relish in the moment."
- Catherine Gillespie (Lafayette Hill, Pa.)
- Victoria Lee (Stroudsburg, Pa.)
- Khloe Porter (Sewell, N.J.)
- Emma Wolfe (Dauphin, Pa.)
- Allison Burke (Coatesville, Pa.)
- Addison Kilmer (South Gibson, Pa.)
- Brianna Blanchard (Somerdale, N.J.)
- Ashley Flynn (Oxford, Pa.)
- Ryleigh Kilmer (South Gibson, Pa.)
- Emma Wonsick (Dauphin, Pa.)
- Brecklynn Finogle (Womelsdorf, Pa.)
- Hannah Hawkes (Yardley, Pa.)
- Rylan Cichonski (Bensalem, Pa.)
- Landon James (Hunlock Creek, Pa.)
- Charles Black (Barnegat, N.J.)
- Tyler Reinhart (Lebanon, Pa.)
- Chase Kegerise (Oley, Pa.)
- Kyle Shupp (Boyertown, Pa.)
- Bronson Kilmer (South Gibson, Pa.)
- Nicholas McKenna (Parkesburg, Pa.)
- Troy Kalinoski (Harrisburg, Pa.)
- Callan Fang (Yardley, Pa.)
- Gavin Hawkes (Yardley, Pa.)
- Tommy Rohan (Scranton, Pa.)
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.