Pirates host Pitch, Hit & Run contest

PITTSBURGH -- Rylee Kalocay's glittery headband miraculously stayed in place as she sprinted from first base to third, placed five pitches in the strike zone and whacked softballs off a tee and into the outfield of PNC Park.

Kalocay won first place in the youngest division of competitors during Scotts Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run program on Saturday. Twelve softball and baseball players ages 7-14 gathered to demonstrate their skills in pitching, hitting and running. Players placed first, second or third in their age division based on how many pitches they correctly placed, how far they hit balls off a tee and how fast they could sprint from first base to third.

The events will culminate with the top competitors in each age division of 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 competing in the National Finals at Petco Park in San Diego during 2016 MLB All-Star Week.

A friendly event packed with high-fives and family photos was not without a competitive spirit.

"I thought you would let us know if we advanced right now?" Kalocay said.

"We'll let you know on Monday," event coordinator Jason Bethea said, smiling. "We have to compare your scores to everybody else's."

Competitors wore their matching green Pitch, Hit & Run T-shirts and received a first-, second- or third-place plaque. The competition was part of the Play Ball initiative that seeks to encourage more youth participation in baseball and softball and stress that there are more ways to enjoy the sports than in formal games.

"The program is basically here to get anybody and everybody involved in baseball and softball," Bethea said. "So being able to compete at one of the MLB ballparks is one of the big pushes to get kids out here. Because who doesn't want to come out here and play where the Pittsburgh Pirates play?"

Other first-place winners included Giovanna Minto (9-10-year-old softball); Sadie Bowers (11-12 softball); Paige Beam (13-14 softball); Ty Sperringer (7-8 baseball); Braelyn Sperringer (9-10 baseball); Jake Johnson (11-12 baseball) and Andrew Scarberry (13-14 baseball).

Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.