KANSAS CITY -- As Oscar Hinton stepped to the plate for his turn in the Scotts Pitch, Hit & Run competition, the 21 competitors who had completed their swings chatted in the dugout. As he planted his foot and took his first swing, the sound of the bat connecting with
KANSAS CITY -- As Oscar Hinton stepped to the plate for his turn in the Scotts Pitch, Hit & Run competition, the 21 competitors who had completed their swings chatted in the dugout. As he planted his foot and took his first swing, the sound of the bat connecting with the ball pierced the air.
The dugout fell silent as the kids turned their heads. They looked on, mesmerized as Hinton, from Plattsmore, Neb., lined each ball to center field.
After a moment, one competitor broke the silence.
"No one is hitting it farther than that," he said.
In his third year in the competition, Hinton posted his best performance, placing first in the 13-14 age division. With his sleeves rolled up, he coolly handled each of the three challenges, while his family looked on from the stands.
"I was probably more nervous about it than he was," Melissa Hinton, Oscar's mother, said.
Hinton was one of 24 children ages 7-14 who participated. The first test was on the basepaths, as they were timed running from second to home. Up next was the hitting competition, followed by the pitching.
Participating alongside veterans like Hinton were some newcomers, like Maggie Mathes of Anthony, Kan., who took home first in the 13-14 softball division. For Mathes, there were some nerves, but the atmosphere in the dugout kept everyone upbeat, not to mention the words of wisdom she received from her older sister Ashlan, who played softball herself.
"[She said] to do my best," Maggie said. "Don't be nervous."
Overall, the top finishers for softball were Bailey Barnett of Bethany, Mo., in the 7-8 division, Zoie Redgate of Attice, Kan., in the 9-10 division, Macy Richardson of Tecumseh, Neb., in the 11-12 division and Mathes in the 13-14 division. For baseball, the top finishers were Phoenix Zimmerman of Blue Springs, Mo., in the 7-8 division, Colby Deavers of Blue Springs in the 9-10 division, Noble Oxford of Overland Park, Kan., in the 11-12 division and Hinton in the 13-14 division.
Lauren Carlson of Council Grove, Kan., was the first one up to the plate in the 13-14 softball division, drawing a big cheer from the family section with her first hit. She walked to the dugout with a huge smile on her face, getting high fives from the group that had just finished up.
"That's probably one of the best hits I've gotten here before," Carlson said.
Now a four-time veteran of the event, Carlson finished third in the 13-14 division, but her attitude was second to none.
She greeted everyone as they came into the dugout, passing along praise and words of encouragement. The competition was important for Carlson, who missed a softball tournament to play in it, but the camaraderie and sportsmanship mattered even more.
And more than anything, that was the theme of the day.
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.