MINNEAPOLIS -- With their parents and siblings bundled up in the right-field stands to bear the sub-60-degree weather at Target Field, 24 youngsters competed for a chance to win a trip to Anaheim. During Target Field's inaugural Team Championship of the Pitch, Hit & Run event -- the Twins' 14th annual holding of the competition, which was formerly held at the Metrodome -- kids between the ages of 7 and 14 faced off to earn eligibility to compete in the national finals in Anaheim during All-Star weekend. By finishing first at the team level, the champions' scores will be compared to the other MLB team champions and the top three all-around points holders will earn their free trip.
"I'm kinda excited," said Jana Roste, winner of the girls' 13-14 division. "My aunt lives in California, so I really want to be top three in the nation so I can go there and see her." This was Roste's first year competing in the PHR. Her favorite event is the running portion. She plays shortstop for her school and traveling team in her hometown of Alexandria, Minn. Roste said her older brother had previously competed in PHR competitions, so her dad recommended she try it out. "He told me the day of the first round, and I said I'd do it," Roste said. "I really like it. My family's really into baseball, so it's a little cool to be here at the field." The champions of each round are determined by a point system. The pitching event is scored based on the accuracy of six pitches within a strike-zone banner. The hitting is based off of how far competitors hit the ball and the accuracy in which they do so, and the running is simply timing their speeds from second base to home plate. Jordan Mann, the champion of the boys' 11-12 division, said his favorite portion of the event is hitting. This might be because he admitted his favorite Twins' player is none other than Joe Mauer, who knows a thing or two about swinging the bat. Mann, who made the trek to Target Field from Bismarck, N.D., was also competing in his first PHR event. "My dad saw a flyer about it and said I should try," Mann said. "He was fishing the day of the first round though, so my grandpa took me instead. It feels really good to have won today." Mann is keeping his fingers crossed that he fared well enough to make it to the finals, as he's never been to California, and it would be "pretty good" to finally get to visit the Golden State. For Twins PHR coordinator Matt Hilley, the most rewarding part doesn't come during the actual competition, but when the competitors first walk into the ballpark. "It really is great for the kids," Hilley said. "It is fun to see their faces light up when they first step out onto the field. For most of them, it's their first time on a big league field, and you can tell it's a pretty cool experience for them."
Jocelyn Syrstad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.