Cam Papetti felt a mix of emotions early Saturday morning. He was excited, nervous and anxious, but most of all, trying to have some fun. And what better way to do that than to participate in the Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run Competition --- for the Grafton, Mass., native, at his beloved Fenway Park in the Red Sox Team Championship.
The Pitch, Hit & Run program is presented by Scotts, the official lawn care company of Major League baseball.
"I was trying to have some fun. And I was nervous," Papetti said. "But really I was just trying to do my best."
He did his best, winning the 9-10-year-old Boys Age Division. Papetti will make the national finals by scoring in the top three for his age group of the 30 winners --- one from each Major League team. The 24 national finalists, three from eight different age/gender groups, will be announced after each team championship wraps at the end of the month.
In addition to participating in the national competition, the winners will shag fly balls in the Home Run Derby on July 14 at Target Field in Minneapolis as part of an all-expenses paid trip to All-Star Week.
Chris Jameson, whose daughter Addie placed third in the 11-12-year-old Girls Age Division, said Addie doesn't get over excited often. But the chance to compete on the grass at Fenway Park was a different story. The competition involves hitting off a tee for distance and accuracy, throwing pitches at a strike-zone-sized target and running from second to home plate as fast as possible.
"She doesn't get excited for much," Jameson said. "But this was something else."
More than 600,000 kids across the continent participated in the "Official Youth Skills Competition of Major League Baseball," in girls softball and boys baseball divisions last year. Over 4,000 local competitions take place each year, hosted by baseball organizations, leagues or volunteers within various communities around the country.
Players reach the team championships by winning at the local and sectional levels, which are designed geographically based on proximity to a Major League ballpark.
A key component of the competition is sportsmanship, something both parents and kids tried to display Saturday.
"I had a lot of fun meeting the other girls," said Jessica Warren, who placed third in the 13-14-year-old Girls Age Division. "And we tried to high-five and encourage each other as much as we could to set a good example for the younger girls."
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com.