Pitch, Hit & Run kids thrilled to play on Rangers' field

Texas-area youth vie for trip to All-Star Game

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Win or lose, this was an experience 24 boys and girls will never forget.

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Sectional qualifiers in Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run Presented by Scotts gathered at Globe Life Park on Sunday to try to earn a trip to the All-Star Game on July 14 in Cincinnati.

Boys and girls ages seven through 14 took part in a hitting distance competition off a tee, threw six pitches in attempt to hit the strike zone and ran a timed sprint. The winners won't know until the final Sunday of June if their scores are good enough to earn a trip to the All-Star Game.

Sunday, though, was only partially about the competition. It was a rare opportunity to play on a Major League field. Parents loaded the stands to watch, and the competitors posed for photos on the field and by the dugout to capture the moment.

For some, this lifetime memory almost never happened.

Carson Cox, 11, placed third in his age group Sunday, but he wouldn't have gotten involved if his father, Kelly Cox, hadn't been a youth coach and volunteer at the local event.

Carson was hesitant to go at first, but with a little urging, he decided to give it a shot and won at the local and sectional levels.

"It was awesome just to be on the Rangers' field," Carson said.

Axton McElroy -- a 13-year-old from Mustang, Oklahoma -- heard about Pitch, Hit & Run because his 8-year-old brother's team was planning to compete. McElroy found out he was eligible as well and ended up making it all the way to Arlington.

"It felt really good," McElroy said. "The atmosphere was nice. I liked the competition. Everyone was nice, and I just thought it was pretty cool. I had never been on the field for the Texas Rangers."

These competitors took a chance, and they came away with an unforgettable reward.

"I think it's incredible," Kelly Cox said. "Just for the kids to be able to touch the dirt and be a part of it, to make them feel special and make them want to work harder to get into MLB."

Paislie Allen (7-8 girls), Paige Willis-Gallegos (9-10 girls), Graci Buckley (11-12 girls), Sydnee Browning (13-14 girls), Kaden Rhodes (7-8 boys), Sareen Patel (9-10 boys), Samuel Long (11-12 boys) and McElroy (13-14 boys) were first-place finishers.

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