Each Major League ballpark will host a Pitch, Hit & Run event this month, and the top three participants nationally in each age group will advance to the 2013 Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run National Final during MLB All-Star Week at Citi Field in New York on July 15. There, they will have the chance to shag balls during the Home Run Derby.
"Going to the All-Star Game would be a dream come true," said Makylee Buell, who could have a chance after finishing first in the girls ages 11 and 12 division.
During Saturday's event, participants took three swings off a tee, threw six pitches in an attempt to rack up as many strikes as possible and then ran an abbreviated path around the bases. The latter task was Buell's favorite.
"It was nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time," she said. "It was pretty fun."
Teron Doebele, 14, and his father, Mark, drove more than five hours from their home in Riverton, Wyo., to participate in the event, arriving in Denver at about midnight. That left little time for sleep before the event kicked off at 7:30 a.m. But it was all worth it, said Doebele, who took home first place in the boys ages 13 and 14 division.
Doebele, who also made it to Coors Field as an 11-year-old, said the camaraderie among participants is the aspect of Pitch, Hit & Run he enjoys most.
"Everyone is having fun and having a good time," he said. "No one is really disappointed or pouting about it. Everybody is just having a good time."
The nervousness was mostly confined to the section of seats above the Rockies' dugout that hosted the camera-snapping, encouragement-shouting parents.
Mark Doebele offered his son advice when Teron approached home plate to hit, reminding him to strike the lower third of the baseball in order to lift it in the air. But the father certainly didn't take credit for his son's achievement Saturday.
"He did awesome," Mark Doebele said. "He's played a lot of baseball already this year, so that's what helped the most. … Now we're keeping our fingers crossed and waiting for the next round."
The Rockies may want to up their scouting efforts in Wyoming. Four of the eight winners at Coors Field were from the Cowboy State.
The complete list of winners: ages 7 and 8, Macy Richardson (Tecumseh, Neb.) and Hunter Gatti (Riverton, Utah); ages 9 and 10, Demi Stauffenberg (Riverton, Wyo.) and Nolan Burrell (Parks, Neb.); ages 11 and 12, Buell (Rock Springs, Wyo.) and Colten Shumway (Enoch, Utah); ages 13 and 14, Rylee Easton (Rock Springs, Wyo.) and Doebele (Riverton, Wyo).
This year marks the 17th season Major League Baseball has hosted a youth skills competition.