Kids show their stuff at Yankee Stadium
Children age seven to 14 compete in Pitch, Hit and Run
NEW YORK -- Hannah Foster's orange-colored braces shine when she reminisces about striking out boys in her nine-to-10-year-old baseball league in Dothan, Ala.
"They are like, 'Man, a girl struck me out," she said, imitating a boy's pouted expression with her shoulders sunk and arms hanging loosely to the ground.
Softball? She doesn't want to play softball. Her mother has even tried to teach her how to throw underhand like Jennie Finch, but it's not working. Foster prefers her overhand, 48-mph fastball -- yes, she's had it timed -- as it blazes by all of the guys.
Standing in Yankee Stadium's bullpen, the 10-year-old Foster said her Little League coach told her she was their star pitcher and pointed her toward the 2008 Pitch, Hit and Run competition. And in the final round on Monday, Foster proved her coach right, winning the nine-to-10-year-old age group at the "House that Ruth Built."
She was just one of eight champions crowned. Alexis Peri won the seven-to-eight-year-old girls' division, Tyler Ras conquered the seven-to-eight-year-old boys' division and Tommy Lichty bested everyone in the nine-to-10-year-old boys' division.
Of the older age groups, Sydney Roumeliotis won the 11-to-12-year-old girls' division, Adam Choice dominated the 11-to-12-year-old boys' division, Kelsi Chilocote claimed victory in the 13-to-14-year-old girls' division and Casey McCallister vanquished the entire 13-to-14-year-old boys' division.
Ras, from northern New Jersey, took the top spot representing the Yankees and fancies himself a home run hitter like his favorite player, Alex Rodriquez, and, unlike Foster, he's been to Yankee Stadium and touched its monuments on several occasions.
"It's a really big deal," Ras said of winning the competition.
The events -- throwing a ball through a target, hitting off a tee and running around third base and charging home -- were made more dramatic by the voice of television commentator Gary Thorne, who egged on Choice as he jetted home -- his Atlanta Braves cap flying off while jetting to an event-best time of 6.47 seconds.
But even those who didn't win a title were thrilled with the experience. Drew Blakely, a 10-year-old from Michigan, competed in the competition when he was eight, as well. He sunk five out of six throws in the pitching portion of the event, even if he admitted he didn't do as well as he would have hoped in the contest's other facets. But there are no worries -- he's a pitcher at heart, and he's already got his mind set on being a professional.
"That's the hope," Blakely said with the utmost sincerity.
After the competition was over, he along with a herd of children from each age group got to shake hands with Boston's Kevin Youkilis. Angels pitcher Ervin Santana signed balls for them.
Blakely turned over his hat and showed off autographs from namely Josh Hamilton, his favorite player, while Luis Alicea, a coach for the Red Sox, sat in the dugout and rubbed the blonde head of a little boy from Indiana. The boy then stood up on the bench to get eye level with Alicea and asked, "Whose bat is this?" It was a player's, and he couldn't have it.
"Just making it here is amazing," Ras said, "and I just tried to do my best."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.