ATLANTA -- SunTrust Park was the final stop for 24 youth hopefuls as they competed for a chance to qualify for the Scotts Pitch, Hit & Run Finals being held during MLB All-Star Week in Miami.Participants came from as far as Mississippi to engage in training exercises deemed to test their
ATLANTA -- SunTrust Park was the final stop for 24 youth hopefuls as they competed for a chance to qualify for the Scotts Pitch, Hit & Run Finals being held during MLB All-Star Week in Miami.
Participants came from as far as Mississippi to engage in training exercises deemed to test their performance. Twelve boys and 12 girls were divided into four categories based on ages ranging from 7-14 years old.
The participants were scored on a points-based system that included hitting off a tee, pitching from 35-45 feet and baserunning around the third-base bag.
Gavin Kuld, a Salisbury, N.C. native, made the near four-hour trip to test his skill set with hopes of advancing. He took home second place in the 13-14-aged baseball division after spending nearly three weeks preparing with his dad and former Minor Leaguer Peter Kuld.
"We just went through everything that he was going to do today," Peter said. "I tried to get him to mostly work on his pitching. He has the gift of size and leverage, so we got him to focus on hitting higher up on the tee and drive it through the air."
Kuld battled with 13-14 age group winner Dylan Koontz of nearby Huntersville, N.C. Koontz displayed a solid ability to accurately hit the pitching target due to a unique training program that included practicing on baseball fields, in garages and in his own backyard.
"I practiced an hour in the field, and we cut up a towel to pitch into it," Koontz said. "I am feeling very excited and happy right now."
Koontz threw two-seamers to capture the victory and consistently hit the bottom of the pitching zone. He qualified along with seven other participants, including Caroline Thomas, a native of Madison, Ala.
Thomas said the competition was fun but thought the event did challenge her to push the limits of her skills.
"I practiced a couple of times to get used to it," Thomas said. "The easiest part was probably the running, and the hardest was the pitching."
The remaining winners include Haile Bramlett, Pontotoc, Miss. (7-8 girls division); JaMiah Lewis, Flinstone, Ga. (9-10 girls); Olivia Shaw, Flowery Branch, Ga. (11-12 girls); Ryan Kentner, Pontotoc, Miss. (7-8 boys); Luke Metz, Buford, Ga. (9-10 boys); Sylas Boris, Greensboro, N.C. (11-12 boys).
The winners will be notified if their marks qualified nationally after Pitch, Hit & Run events conclude at all 30 MLB stadiums. The top three All-Around winners from each age group nationally will go to the festivities throughout MLB All-Star Week.
For some parents, like Caroline's dad Chris Thomas, he was happy to see his child compete and potentially advance.
"I am thrilled as this is a culmination of a lot of effort and hard work, and we are very proud of her," Chris said.
The Pitch, Hit & Run event is in its 21st year and has notable alumni like Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer and numerous players across Minor League Baseball.
Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.