Pitch, Hit & Run Competition finals held at Citi Field
Twenty-four participants won opportunity to shag flies in Home Run Derby
NEW YORK -- Advancing to the finals of the Pitch, Hit & Run Competition presented by Scott's is only part of the thrill for Jackson White. The rest of the experience was still a few hours away.
"It's awesome to be able to play on Citi Field, and shagging fly balls during the Home Run Derby," said White, 14, from Charleston, S.C.
The national finals for the tournament were held Monday at Citi Field, giving 24 participants the opportunity to play on the same field that will host Tuesday's All-Star Game and stand in the outfield for Monday night's Chevrolet Home Run Derby to track down outs hit by MLB stars. They earned the chance after a long process, beating out opponents on three previous levels of the PHR competition before making it to Citi Field.
They started on the local level and then advanced to sectionals. Once they won sectionals, they moved on to the team championships, which all 30 MLB teams hosted at their stadium.
The top three competitors nationwide from each age group advanced to the finals. On Monday, the 12 boys and 12 girls who won became a part of All-Star Week. They represented 17 states in the U.S., in addition to a representative from Ontario, Canada.
Sophie Debreuil, 11, from Niantic, Conn., said it's amazing to have been able to make it to the finals. Like White, though, she was still looking forward to the Home Run Derby.
"That's very cool," Debreuil said, "Just knowing that people where I live will see me out there."
Matt Engleka, one of the event's organizers, said the finals are the best part of the competition. After all the kids' hard work of winning the previous levels, they've reached the pinnacle of Pitch, Hit and Run.
"The finals is the fun part. We work with close to 4,500 organizations nationwide. That's the challenging part and advancing them from locals to sectionals to team championships, and then the national finals," Engleka said. "This is the fun part."
During the finals, MLB All-Stars like the Mets' Matt Harvey and D-backs' Patrick Corbin, as well as NL manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants, all walked by on their way to television interviews while the participants watched their fellow competitors. All of them, especially Harvey, drew some gasps as they strode across the field.
Former MLB player Harold Reynolds and MLB Network analyst even walked over to the dugout before the competition got underway to hear about how the contestants were enjoying their time in New York.
Engleka said while all the competitors want to win, making it to the finals is a big accomplishment they should all be proud of.
"It's great. They've earned their way here, and by winning at all the different levels along the way," Engleka said. "This is their final reward. They all want to finish in first, but the ultimate prize is getting here."
The prize was only sweetened by the thrill of shagging fly balls during the Derby.
Said White: "It's going to be awesome."