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Sportsmanship, fun abound at Pitch, Hit & Run

Wrigley Field hosts regional competition for kids on Saturday
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Deep out to left in Wrigley Field, Brady Gromacki took a swing at a ball off a tee and then another. Both were hit too low and didn't register for the distance marks he was trying to reach.

His third swing turned some heads, as a loud crack of the bat launched the ball some 238 feet all the way to right-center. A fellow competitor ran up to him to congratulate him after marveling at the hit.

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CHICAGO -- Deep out to left in Wrigley Field, Brady Gromacki took a swing at a ball off a tee and then another. Both were hit too low and didn't register for the distance marks he was trying to reach.

His third swing turned some heads, as a loud crack of the bat launched the ball some 238 feet all the way to right-center. A fellow competitor ran up to him to congratulate him after marveling at the hit.

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"What's your name?" the child asked.

"Brady," Gromacki answered.

"Nice job."

That was the scene at Wrigley Field as 24 youngsters gathered for the regional Pitch, Hit & Run competition on Saturday. Pitch, Hit & Run, the official youth skills competition of Major League Baseball, invites kids to demonstrate their pitching, hitting and running abilities in baseball and softball. The competition coincides with this weekend's "PLAY BALL" initiative between Major League Baseball, USA Baseball and USA Softball, which encourages widespread participation in all forms of baseball/softball activities among all age groups, especially youth.

The first of the three Pitch, Hit & Run activities involved the kids divided up into four age groups, taking swings off a tee.

From there, they moved onto the warning track by the wall in left to throw, trying to hit a target positioned 35-45 feet away. Destiny Heinrich, a participant in the age 7/8 softball division, didn't have her best day throwing, but proudly proclaimed with a big smile that she preferred the running portion. Alex Chaltin, who eventually took first place in the age 11/12 baseball competition, was a little more pleased with his outing, and said he was equally pleased with the experience.

Finally came the running portion of the events, as the children sprinted around a cone and through the finish line, representing the distance from second base to home plate. A strong display of sportsmanship came right away, as after taking her turn running in the 7/8 division, Olivia Schuster stood at the finish line, waiving on Kailin Habben, the next finisher and eventual winner of that age group. Schuster clapped for Habben on her way to the finish, capping off the gesture with a celebratory high five.

The winners for the softball competition were Habben (7/8 division), Natalie Ferguson (9/10), Claire Girkin (11/12) and Victoria Kuhn (13/14). After finding out she'd won, Kuhn hugged the other winners with a big smile, while telling the members of her own division: "I swear I got third."

The winners of the baseball competition were Eli Penne (7/8 division), Evan Spillman (9/10), Chaltin (11/12) and Tyler Cleaver (13/14).

In addition to having a chance to advance to the next level of competition, the winning participants were set to be honored at Wrigley Field before Saturday's game against the Cardinals.

Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

Chicago Cubs