Valrico Girl Wins National Hit, Pitch & Run Competition
Sloan Hammons, 12, came in first in her age division in the Major League Baseball event in Kansas City July 9.
A Valrico girl is a national champion after winning her age division in Major League Baseball's Hit, Pitch & Run Finals July 9 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Sloan Hammons, 12, managed to outpitch, outhit and outrrun two fellow fiinalists from Kansas and California in the 11- and 12-year-old softball division Monday afternoon, prior to Major League Baseball's nationally televised All-Star Game.
She was among 24 finalists in the annual Hit, Pitch & Run competition that involved more than 685,000 participants, according to MLB,
Hammons, an honor student at Mulrennan Middle School, plays ball with the All-Star Team at Bloomingdale Little League as well as travel ball with the Florida Fire, also based at the Bloomingdale Little League.
She started playing softball at the age of 8 and this was her third time participating in the Hit, Pitch & Run competition. Last year she made it as far as the team tournament at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
This year Hammons was determined to go all the way to nationals.
She was nervous but confident as she went into Monday's stand-off.
"I think I have a pretty good chance as long as I get good pitching," Hammons said. "I’m strongest in batting and running."
With Orioles announcer and ESPN analyst Gary Thorne standing about 3 feet away emceeing the event, Hammons and the other 23 finalists opened the competition by throwing a ball into a small opening backed by netting. Each accurate throw garnered 75 points, with each finalist getting six chances to make the throws.
Each girl threw softballs at a strike zone 35 feet away, while the boys threw baseballs at the same target from 45 feet away. The event continued with hitting off a tee and running the bases.
MLB's Pitch, Hit & Run program is a skills competition that has been held for the past 14 years for ages 7-14.
Participants advance through four levels of competition, beginning at the local level -- which can be hosted by organizations, leagues or volunteers within a community -- and continuing through sectional and team competitions. Hammons competed locally at the Bloomingdale Little League Hit, Pitch & Run Tournament.
Then all 30 Major League clubs hosted team championships at their ballparks on weekends from May 26 through June 24. Hammons competed at Tropicana Field in a championship hosted by the Rays May 30. The top three competitors nationwide from each age group (7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14) advanced to the 2012 Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run National Finals.
In addition to competing in the national tournament and getting a chance to shag some fly balls during the televised homerun derby, the finalists made a trip to MLB All-Star FanFest, an interactive baseball theme park and the largest baseball fan event in the world.
Among its attractions are an exhibit from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, batting cages, clinics from Major League legends along with free autograph sessions with former Royals, MLB legends and Hall of Famers.
"This is a big deal, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said her father, Eric Hammons. "I’m very proud of her."