CHICAGO -- It's awesome, yet nerve-racking.
That's the way Avery Greider described competing in the national finals of the Pitch, Hit & Run Competition last year.
Established in 1997, the competition hosts more than 4,000 local competitions each year. From there, participants are filtered through regional and sectional rounds, and the top three from each age division make it to the team competition held in each Major League city between May 31 and June 29.
That's what brought Greider, a resident of Fort Wayne, Ind., to U.S. Cellular Field, along with 23 other participants. One of three finalists for the 11- to 12-year-old girls age division in the White Sox market, she's hoping to make it back-to-back trips to the MLB All Star Game.
The top three winners nationally from each age group among all 30 teams will have the opportunity to compete in the national competition during All-Star Week on July 14 at Target Field in Minneapolis. The top three winners for the final will be announced on June 29 on MLB Network.
So what advice would a seasoned veteran like Greider give to her fellow competitors? It was rather simple, and a timeless formula for success.
"Practice. A lot of practice," Greider said. "It definitely helps."
Greider made it all the way to the finals last year, earning a trip to Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. She received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York for herself and a guest, and recounted watching the 2013 All-Star Game in person as her favorite memory.
"It was an awesome experience, but it was kind of scary at the same time -- because you had to compete while you were there," said Greider.
Even though just three competitors will reach Minneapolis, Pitch Hit & Run helps spur interest in softball and baseball. Above all, it's a fun way to compete head to head against other kids. The competition involves hitting off a tee, running from second to home and throwing pitches at a strike zone.
"It's pretty awesome," said Pitch, Hit & Run representative Kate Viebrock. "Think about when you were a kid and you got to participate on a big, Major League field. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not many kids get to [enjoy], so it's definitely very competitive for them to get here."
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com.