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Comerica Park hosts Pitch, Hit & Run competition

DETROIT -- Nothing was going to keep Dustin Dapprich from participating in the Pitch, Hit & Run Saturday morning at Comerica Park -- not even a fractured finger that put his arm in a cast.

As a pitcher from Milan, Mich., he told the doctors to shape his cast around his thumb and a few fingers so he could still grip a baseball.

"His big thing was, 'As long as I can still throw with a cast on, we'll go,'" his father Fred Dapprich said. "He did OK, he hit pretty well, he ripped the skin off of his thumb with the cast. But he had fun."

Dapprich was one of the top 24 boys and girls from Michigan in four different age groups (7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14), to make it to Comerica Park after the participants first won their local competition and then won their regional.

Each kid was given six pitches to hit a strike zone target, three swings off a tee to measure distance and accuracy, and one dash from near second base to home plate to show off their speed.

"You could hear them say, 'This is cool' because this is where their heroes play," Matt Engleka said, a Pitch, Hit & Run representative. "Something like that is really special to hear. They look up to those Major League Baseball players and they are sitting in the same seats they do, playing catch in the same place. It really allows the kids to connect with the Major League players, and that's a pretty special part of the program."

For Pauline Hawkes from Three Rivers, Mich., she participated for the first time and finished in second place in the 7-8-year-old girls age division. Her parents had no clue what this event was before a few months ago.

"We had no idea," her mother Paula Hawkes said. "When we saw it, we thought 'Yeah, take the kids over and give it a try.' We didn't know what it was, but we did it. Then we got a call saying, 'Hey sectionals are this date and everything,' and then we got the call that she was one of the top [players] to come to Comerica. Oh, Pauline was so excited. It was all she could talk about."

Not only was it an exciting time for Pauline Hawkes, but also her entire family was able to enjoy a morning at the ballpark.

"She did a great job," Pauline's father Ernest Hawkes said. "I'm happy for her, but it's an awesome experience just to get [to Comerica Park]. I've been trying to get here for years."

The Pitch, Hit & Run competition began in 1997, and more than 600,000 children compete nationwide. Once all 30 Major League clubs host their championships throughout June, the top three boys and girls in each age group will be announced June 30 during "MLB Tonight" on the MLB Network. They will advance to the finals at the 2013 MLB All-Star Game in New York, where they will compete on the field prior to shagging fly balls during the Home Run Derby.

The Michigan winners:

Girls, 7 and 8: Jennifer Henegar from Woodhaven

Girls, 9 and 10: Genevieve Decker from New Baltimore

Girls, 11 and 12: Kaitlyn Branstrom from Galesburg

Girls, 13 and 14: Laura Fransworth from Frankenmuth

Boys, 7 and 8: Samuel Bronkenna from Otsego

Boys, 9 and 10: Zakary Kelly from Holt

Boys, 11 and 12: Sid Ferry from Paw Paw

Boys, 13 and 14: Devin Visnaw from Livonia

Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for

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