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Pitch, Hit & Run finals hopefuls compete at Camden Yards

Winners have chance of making national competition, attending All-Star festivities

BALTIMORE -- Some competitors sprinted, some stayed in the middle of the pack and some ran at a leisurely pace to the left-field wall and back to warm up their legs.

Caroline Orza was part of the latter group. She was more focused on soaking in the moment.

"It was really fun. When we ran out to the outfield wall, I was touching everything," said Orza, who won the 11-12-year-old girls division. "I was touching the outfield grass to see what it felt like and the bases and stuff, because it was just fun being in a Major League ballpark."

Orza was one of 24 contestants who competed in the Orioles Team Championship of Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run Presented by Scotts on Saturday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. All the participants -- boys and girls ranging from ages 7-14 -- had won their local and sectional events before heading to Camden Yards.

All of the contestants threw six pitches at a target, took three swings off a tee and competed in a timed sprint from second base to home plate. Saturday's eight winners will now have to wait until June 28 to find out if their scores, which will be compared to winners around the nation, are good enough to earn them a trip to All-Star Week in Cincinnati for the National Finals.

"It's a lot of fun playing on the field [considering] the great players that stood on that field," said Jack Bulger, who took the 13-14-year-old boys section. "It was just a lot of fun."

While there was fun to be had, Bulger looked to be the most focused participant throughout the competition. He practiced pitching drills with a towel before getting on the mound. The 5-foot-10, 175 -pound catcher got in the zone by listening to music while waiting to hit off the tee and made sure his legs were well stretched before taking part in the running.

According to his father, Chuck, that's just the way Bulger always approaches the game.

"I schlep lumber at Home Depot so he can play travel baseball," said Chuck, who is an assistant coach on Jack's travel team. "It's an honor to watch my son play and super exciting every day to have him work as hard as he does, for all the hard work to bear fruit. The fact that he works so hard at it and loves it also means a lot to me."

Bulger, along with 13-14-year-old girls winner Tyanna Butler, were chosen to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Saturday's game against the Yankees. Butler will be on the mound, but unfortunately, Bulger has a tournament game in Frederick, Md., and will not be in attendance.

He said he was disappointed, but there could be an All-Star trip in his future.

"I think that is a very small chance," he said. "I didn't do well pitching, but if the stars align, maybe. I have a shot."

Connor Smolensky is an associate reporter for
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