Brewers host Pitch, Hit & Run event

Brewers host Pitch, Hit & Run event

MILWAUKEE -- Batters stood in the grass in left field and took turns swinging off the batting tee. As each ball landed, there was applause from the crowd followed by a quick tug of the tape measure to record the hit's distance.

It wasn't another round of batting practice for these youngsters, but rather the second part of a three-part competition known as the Pitch, Hit & Run event. The top 24 contestants in the state competed at Miller Park on Sunday morning to put their batting, throwing and baserunning skills to the test in trying to qualify for the national finals.

The first-place finisher in each age group will have his or her scores compared to those of the other first-place finishers from the other 29 MLB teams, and from there, the three top scorers will compete during the All-Star weekend in Phoenix.

The male and female participants were divided into age groups that ranged from seven to 14 years old and took turns running from second base to home, batting off the tee and pitching into a target on a backstop. The chance to compete at Miller Park as family members and friends lined the third-base line caused many youngsters to smile throughout the morning.

Pausing to snap pictures in front of the Brewers logo in the visiting team's dugout and then starting out at the Jumbotron inspired just as much excitement as the skills competition.

"We promise we'll try to get the spellings of your names right before the game, when they're up on the board," said PHR coordinator Bennett Mayfield, who kept track of the score on his clipboard.

The annual competition has become a family affair for many of the participants, including 13-year-old Courtney Stephens, who was the top finisher in her age group. Stephens' brother, Tyler, won the state competition last year and competed in the national championship in Anaheim. Seeing her brother win a free trip to the All-Star Game and appear on TV made Courtney and her younger sister, Andrea, want to try and advance this season, she said.

"You start, and you're like 'Ah, really?' It's just something fun for the kids to do, and you never put two and two together," said Courtney's mother, Renee. "There are little bloops along the way. ... For Court, she's 13; she has another year, so it's awesome."

Andrea also participated on Sunday morning and finished third in the 11- to 12-year-old group.

To compete at Miller Park, each contestant had to advance through local competitions that attracted hundreds of participants. They then had to take first place at the sectional competition in order to advance to the state competition. As the participants stood with their plaques and watched Jim Thome warm up behind them in left field, they were making memories that aren't about to be lost on them any time soon.

Mayfield had one final message to the top finishers, as they exited the park, with many changing into Brewers hats and jerseys.

"You are one of 30 people in the country that is holding that plaque right now, making you eligible to advance to the national finals, where you could compete against the best," Mayfield said. "Congratulations."

The first-place winners took part in a pregame ceremony and will find out on Monday night whether their score is good enough to land them a coveted spot in the national finals. The national finalists will be announced on MLB Tonight on the MLB Network.

"I don't think I'm going to go, but there might be a chance," Courtney said. "We'll see. ... If not, I can compete again next year."