Turner Field hosts Pitch, Hit & Run regional
Twenty-four boys and girls compete for spot in finals
ATLANTA -- Emmitt Herring wasn't even supposed to be at Turner Field on Saturday morning for MLB's Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship competition. The Wallace, N.C., native had just missed qualifying during a local sectional round in North Carolina, but on Monday, after the individuals who placed ahead of him confirmed they couldn't make it, Herring was given a call, asking if he wanted to come.
"So we starting packing up and rolled on," Herring said.
And after an outstanding performance on Saturday while competing in the 13-14-year-old division, Herring rolled out as the divisional champion for his age group.
Herring was one of 24 competitors who made Turner Field their personal playground for the Braves MLB Pitch, Hit & Run contest. More than 600,000 children participated nationwide in the program, and on Saturday, the top 12 boy and top 12 girl qualifiers from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama competed in hopes of advancing to the National Finals at the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif.
Each MLB club is hosting the competition for individuals in their respective areas, and the top three boys and top three girls from each age division will be given an all-expenses-paid trip to the All-Star Game, where they'll be honored for their achievements.
The Braves' competitors began the day by participating in a pitching contest, where each kid hurled six balls at a backstop with a small square labeled "Strike Zone." The more times you hit the target, the higher the score. Next was hitting off a tee. Each individual got three swings, and the longer the distance, the better. The morning ended with each kid rumbling around the basepaths from first to third as quickly as possible. A total of eight competitors were awarded first-place awards, with one girl and one boy each coming from the 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, and 13-14-year-old divisions.
For the 11-12-year-old boys division, Tanner Blatt emerged victorious. Granted, as the younger brother of Zach Blatt, who was a two-time PHR National Finalist himself, the result might have been expected.
"I was just a little bit nervous," Tanner said of the day. "I went out there and started pitching, and then I felt pretty good. My big brother did this, so that helped, too."
When asked if they'd continue the ongoing Blatt legacy in the Pitch, Hit & Run Competition by having more kids, Blatt's parents laughed while shaking their heads "no."
Valerie Rywearson, the 13 & 14-year-old girls champion, may not have a family legacy in the event, but she certainly made a name for herself with her performance. She used a softball windup while pitching -- most competitors just threw overhand -- and took home the division crown.
"My dad made me practice every single day," Rywearson said afterward. "Hitting. Running. Pitching. For an hour a day at least. I'm happy now. Happy that I practiced."
The competition itself may have just been a glorified practice for Rywearson as well, for soon after receiving her award, she headed to play in her team's softball tournament.
The winners for the Pitch, Hit & Run Competition were JJ Richardson and Lauren Hunt for the 7-8-year-old division, Adam Dixon and Hannah Gwager for the 9-10-year-old division, Blatt and Akira Harris for the 11-12-year-old division and Herring and Rywearson for the 13-14-year-old division.
Chris Hempson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.