Eight Pitch, Hit & Run champs crowned at Target Field

Eight Pitch, Hit & Run champs crowned at Target Field

MINNEAPOLIS -- Some players chalk up winning to skill. Some chalk it up to luck.

Matt Novis chalks it up to a broken wrist.

The 2014 Pitch, Hit & Run champion for the 13- and 14-year-old boys division claimed his title at Target Field on Monday afternoon, but he was quick to play it off as a result of medical fate.

"Every year, I made it to sectionals, but then my friend who was always a little better than me knocked me out," said Novis, a native of Tempe, Ariz., who represented the D-backs. "But this year, he broke his wrist, so I ended up winning."

One of eight winners on Monday, Novis and his fellow champs came from a pool of roughly 650,000 kids who tried out at various Pitch, Hit & Run events in the past few months. The program began in 1997 as a way to steer America's youth back toward baseball.

"The idea was to put a bat and ball back in kids' hands, and get 'em back out playing the game of baseball," representative Matt Engelka said.

The competition is broken up into three parts:

• Pitch: A 17-by-30-inch net is up at home plate. Players get six throws and try to throw the ball through the net. Girls toss softballs from 35 feet. Boys toss baseballs from 45 feet.

• Hit: Swinging off a tee, players must account for distance and accuracy. If a player hits the ball too far left or right of the measuring tape going to dead center, the distance from the tape is taken off the overall distance of the hit. Players get three attempts, and only the best score is kept.

• Run: Players dash 160 feet from near second base to home plate. Each player only gets one attempt, and speed is the only thing taken into account.

Madison Hayes, winner of the 11- and 12-year-old girls division, said hitting is the key to victory.

"It just takes one hit," said the Ooltewah, Tenn., native, who was representing the Braves. "All you have to do is relax and have fun. That's all."

Novis took that advice to heart. He crushed a ball almost 300 feet to straight center field, which isn't surprising given that he had a .550 batting average this season while playing up a grade.

With his dad in attendance, he made the most of his opportunity on a big league field.

"It's everything I thought it would be," Novis said. "Plus more."

The 2014 Pitch, Hit and & Run national champions:

• 7-8-year-old girls --Gabriella Emeana (Copperas Cove, Texas) (Houston Astros)

• 7-8-year-old boys --Alex Clemmey (Middletown, R.I.) (Boston Red Sox)

• 9-10-year-old girls -- Olivia King (Lee's Summit, Mo.) (Kansas City Royals)

• 9-10-year-old boys -- Cole Young (Wexford, Penn.) (Pittsburgh Pirates)

• 11-12-year-old girls -- Madison Hayes (Ooltewah, Tenn.) (Atlanta Braves)

• 11-12-year-old boys -- Carmelo Hernandez (Santa Maria, Calif.) (Los Angeles Dodgers)

13-14-year-old girls -- Josie Peterson (Enders, N.E.) (Colorado Rockies)

13-14-year-old boys -- Matt Novis (Tempe, Ariz.) (Arizona Diamondbacks)

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