07/12/2004 11:27 PM ET
Kids turn in big league efforts
Four boys win Pepsi MLB Pitch, Hit & Run national titles
By Christie Cowles / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Four new Pepsi MLB Pitch, Hit & Run national champions were crowned on Monday during Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Minute Maid Park. Tyrus Adkins, 8, of Coralville, Iowa; Jourdan Weiks, 10, Olympia, Wash.; Joshua Lovick, 12, Kinston, N.C.; and Derek Shirley, 14, of Oregon City, Ore., were named champions in each of their age divisions.
Pitch, Hit & Run is the official skills competition of Major League Baseball. The grassroots event recognizes individual excellence in core baseball skills. The program has reached more than 500,000 kids, ages 7 to 14, in more than 3,000 communities in North America.
To get to the national finals, participants must win at the local, sectional and team championship levels, held from April through June. Then the team championship winners -- four total from each age level -- 7- to 8-year olds, 9- to 10-year-olds, 11- to 12-year-olds and 13- to 14-year olds, advance to the finals. Sixteen kids from around the country competed in the finals.
The competition is comprised of three parts: pitching, hitting and running. In the pitching portion, the kids have six chances to hit a target 45 feet away; in the hitting portion, they have three chances to hit the ball off a tee up the middle of the field as far as they can; in the running portion, the kids are timed as they run around the bases from second to home plate.
Adkins, who won the St. Louis Cardinals' team competition, described the finals as "very fun."
"[I had to] practice, try my best and all that stuff," he said. "I think it's challenging, like you're really playing in a ballgame."
He said he enjoyed all the new experiences that being part of the competition provided.
"I went to lots of different states and I won stuff -- trophies and plaques," Adkins said.
Weiks won the Seattle Mariners' team championship to earn his trip to the finals. He said he had made "tons" of new friends during the competition.
"It's amazing, just being at Minute Maid Park," he said, "with everyone that's on TV and the big pros, it's just awesome, wonderful. I would recommend it to everyone."
He said he was happy with his performance in the finals competition.
"Today I thought I did pretty well," he said. "I went a couple of years ago I went and it was very nerve-wracking my first time. Now I'm just kind of used to it, so I think I did better."
Lovick, who was the Atlanta Braves' team championship winner, said having the opportunity to come to Houston for the finals and play on Minute Maid Park's field was the best part.
Pitch, Hit & Run is "real cool, it gives a lot of people get opportunities that they probably wouldn't get -- I saw all these cool players," he said.
He said he enjoyed being at the All-Star Week festivities.
"It's pretty exciting, a lot of stuff going on and I'm being a part of most of it," he said.
Shirley won the Seattle Mariners' team championship in his division. He said he was excited to be in the competition.
"I think I did really good -- I ran good and hit pretty good, I didn't get all the pitches but that's all right," he said.
He said he worked very hard to get ready for the competition.
"I practiced about four or five days a week," he said.
Now the four national champions can relax and enjoy the rewards of all their hard work.
|Iowa's Tyrus Adkins, 8; Washington's Jourdan Weiks, 10; North Carolina's Joshua Lovick, 12; and Oregon's Derek Shirley, 14, are champions. (MLB.com)
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.