Pitch, Hit & Run gives kids Major League dreams

Bay Area youth have fun in competition at AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Lauren Mirtoni grabbed a ball off the warning track dirt at AT&T Park Saturday morning during Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run Presented by Scotts, she had a look of determination in her eyes.

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Mirtoni, 11, says her life revolves around softball, and based on her performance in the competition, it was obvious that she wasn't joking around.

She held the ball in her right palm beside the Giants' dugout, stepped up to the mound and fired six consecutive strikes, a feat that none of the other 23 participants accomplished. At the plate, Mirtoni crushed a ball that nearly landed on the outfield grass and on the base paths she made a perfect turn around third in plenty of time to earn the first place trophy for the 11- and 12-year-old girls division.

"I just thought of it like practice," Mirtoni said.

And that's what it was as Mirtoni hopes to compete in the same event in a few weeks on a national level -- at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati -- as a part of MLB's All-Star festivities.

More than 20 of Mirtoni's friends and family made the two-hour drive from Roseville, Calif., to watch her participate in MLB's Pitch, Hit & Run competition. She even had two former coaches volunteering at the event and said it calmed her nerves.

"It was really nice to have lots of support," Mirtoni said. "[They told me] 'don't be nervous and have fun.'"

While winning is always nice, MLB's Pitch, Hit & Run representative Kelly Peterson says it is just as important "to just have fun" and "enjoy baseball and softball."

"The most rewarding part about the [competition] is coming out to these events and being able to see the kids and the awe on their faces in a Major League park," Peterson added.

Giving the participants access to MLB playing fields allows them to dream big. Kids like Tucker Baird, who finished in first place in the 7- and 8-year-old boys division, have their sights set on greater things than making it to the national round.

"When we were going out to run, I saw the fence was very far and thought 'I'm going to be an MLB player once I grow up," Baird said.

It's not that unrealistic of a goal. Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer was a Pitch, Hit & Run finalist in 1998 and played a major role in the team's run to the World Series last year. In fact, Hosmer is one of 27 former finalists who have been drafted by a Major League team.

Let the kids keep dreaming.

Oliver Macklin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.