Academy Notebook: Whataburger Rising Stars; Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship recap; Texas Rangers Youth Academy wins Jennie Finch Classic

September 24th, 2021

Whataburger Rising Stars Hannah Pacheco, Josue Pina, Briana Rodriguez

Every year the Texas Rangers Youth Academy partners with Whataburger for the Whataburger Rising Stars Program, highlighting exceptional moments from the Rangers RBI season. This summer, nine athletes were recognized for sportsmanship, on-field performance, academic excellence and displays of perseverance and dedication.

Josue Pina, Hannah Pacheco and Briana Rodriguez were each presented with the Whataburger Rising Star award for their outstanding performances during the Rangers RBI season.

Pina, a new member of the Texas Rangers Youth Academy, spent the summer playing for the Rangers RBI Tigers. Receiving the honor of Whataburger Rising Star after his first season at the Academy brought him unmatched happiness.

The pitcher was nominated for his performance on the mound while also showing his willingness to play any position when called upon. “His demeanor with this new team has been outstanding to watch,” the nomination said. Pina said he takes great pride in winning an award that recognizes his athletic ability and personality off the field.

Hannah Pacheco, catcher and third baseman for the Wildcats and Rangers RBI Softball All-Star Team, was presented with her award in late July after an incredible performance in the RBI Regional Tournament.

In the championship game, Pacheco hit a three-run bomb well beyond the left-field wall, capping off an incredible 10-run inning for the team. “Winning this award is an honor,” said Pacheco. “It reminds me that all my hard work and dedication to the sport has paid off. When I’m on the field, I am energetic, loud and I play like it’s my last game.”

Looking back on her summer in the RBI league, Pacheco said her favorite part was playing on the All-Star team, having fun with her teammates and competing against new athletes from around the region.

Three-year Youth Academy athlete Brianna Rodriguez also received the honor of being named a Whataburger Rising Star. Rodriguez was praised for showing her strength and determination on the field while doubling as a leader and positive role model for her teammates.

“Being named a Whataburger Rising Star makes me feel ecstatic and gives me the determination to work harder,” said Rodriguez. “It’s important to be a well-rounded athlete on and off the field and to maintain a positive attitude. Many spectators pay attention to how you act off the field more than how you act on it because it represents who you are as a person.”

Brianna is a longtime member of the Rangers RBI Gophers who claimed back-to-back Championships in 2020 and 2021. While winning has its perks, her favorite part about playing at the Youth Academy this summer was making memories with her teammates.

Pina, Pacheco and Rodriguez each embody what this award is all about. All nine of this year's award winners were recognized with certificates, Whataburger prize bags and a trip to the Texas Rangers game Aug. 28.

Next year, a new group of Rangers RBI athletes will vie for the honor of becoming a Whataburger Rising Star.

Pitch, Hit & Run Regionals Recap

Last Saturday, on Sept. 18, the Texas Rangers Youth Academy hosted the Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship at Globe Life Field. Top athletes from local competitions across Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma participated in Round 2 of the competition with hopes to advance to the Pitch, Hit & Run finals at the MLB World Series.

The Texas Rangers Youth Academy had four athletes competing in the Team Championship, Greylon Lawrence, Nathan Salinas, Emiliano Maldonado and Rihanna Ramirez.

Athletes were scored on their performance in each element of the three-part competition.

Pitch – From the pitcher’s mound, participants attempt to throw six strikes at a target, gaining a point for each target hit.

Hit – Each athlete takes three swings off a tee in an attempt to hit the ball as far and as straight as possible. Only the best score counts after calculating the distance of the hit, minus the distance off-center.

Run – Runners are timed to see how quickly they can run from second base to home plate.

In the 8U baseball division, Greylon Lawrence finished the day in second place with 686 points. Lawrence threw one strike, measured an 88-foot hit, and made his journey from second base to home plate in 10.31 seconds.

Nathan Salinas competed in the 10U baseball division finishing in third place. Salinas scored 679 total points with three strikes and a hit measuring 99 feet.

Taking first place in the 12U baseball division, Emiliano Maldonado scored a whopping 1,013 points. Maldonado tossed three strikes, hit 163 feet, and ran from second to home in 8.38 seconds.

In the 14U softball division, Rihanna Ramirez took third place. Tallying 686 points, Ramirez pitched two strikes and clocked in at a speed of 9.40 seconds.

With his first-place victory in the Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship, Emiliano Maldonado is eligible to advance to the final round of competition at the MLB World Series. As the remaining Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship competitions conclude, Maldonado will soon find out if he scored enough points to be in the top three 12U baseball participants in the country, securing his chance to compete in the final round.

Texas Rangers Softball Wins Jennie Finch Classic

Last weekend the Texas Rangers Youth Academy 17U All-Star softball team traveled to Oklahoma City to compete in the third annual Jennie Finch Classic.

The team competed alongside NOLA YA, Houston YA, Compton YA and Phillies YA in the three-day tournament, eventually advancing to the championship game versus regional rival Houston. On Sunday, Sept. 18, the Texas Rangers Youth Academy won its very first Jennie Finch Classic Championship.

To read a full recap detailing the team’s road to victory, visit the Texas Rangers Youth Academy website, linked here.

The championship-winning team will be recognized for their accomplishment during pre-game ceremonies Saturday, Oct. 2, when the Texas Rangers face the Cleveland Indians at Globe Life Field.