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Pitch, Hit & Run highlights Father's Day in Oakland

Participants thrilled to compete in Major League ballpark

OAKLAND -- The beginning of 12-year-old Evan Bird's morning was anything but fun, as he woke up at 4 a.m. and left at 5 a.m. from Gold River, California, to Oakland.

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But what followed was one of the best experiences of his life.

Bird participated in Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run Presented by Scotts, at the Coliseum on Sunday. He was one of 24 kids (12 male, 12 female, divided into four age groups) to pitch, hit off a tee and run the bases.

What made the day even sweeter, was that Evan and his father, Dennis Bird, got to spend Father's Day together.

"It's a nice treat," Dennis Bird said. "It's perfect. To be here in the morning, something for him, and it's a thrill for me. It's a great father-son moment."

Neither Dennis or Evan expected Evan to make it this far. But he won the previous two rounds, and got a chance to swing his yellow bat, run from second to home and throw strikes to a strike-zone target.

Bird's mainly a swimmer and water polo player, but recently he's shown his expertise on the diamond.

"I'm kind of awestruck," said Evan Bird, who finished second in his group. "It's a great moment. I expected it to be right before the game with all the people in the stands. This makes me feel a lot better. Less pressure."

Nine-year-old Caylee Riley-Sowles had a full contingent of family supporting her. Her grandmother sported an A's sweatshirt and cheered her on, but she was scared because "they've got this whole field and these little ones are competing."

Her fears quickly subsided, as Caylee, with red and white batting gloves, hit her way to a second-place finish. Though she's only 9, she plays in a 12-and-under softball league in Sacramento.

One other youngster who got a chance to play at the Coliseum was 8-year-old Johnny LaGrange Staggs. Johnny is a Yankees fan and his father, Curtis LaGrange Staggs, is a Cardinals fan, but both were still blown away that Johnny played where the A's play.

"It's a great experience, especially on Father's Day," Curtis LaGrange Staggs said. "What more could a father ask for? My kid's Top 90 in his age group in the nation."

For 14-year-old Jedidiah Beltran, the field's tallest competitor, it was his first experience on a Major League ball field, and he crushed a ball off a tee to the outfield to claim victory in his group.

The day's winners were Charisma Flak (7-8 girls), Grace Carpenter (9-10 girls), Erica Jackson (11-12 girls), Renee Cho (13-14 girls), Weston Deboer (7-8 boys), Ethan Peterson (9-10 boys), Ryan Lozon (11-12 boys) and Beltran (13-14 boys).

The majority of the participants and their family members stuck around for the A's game against the Angels to cap off an unforgettable day.

Trevor Hass is an associate reporter for
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