OAKLAND -- Early Sunday morning at the Coliseum, several hours before the A's and Red Sox took the field, 24 kids played ball with a potential trip to the All-Star Game in Minneapolis on the line.
Competing in Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit and Run event, sponsored by Scott's, the kids strutted their stuff inside a mostly empty stadium -- save for the groundskeepers and, of course, the parents, with camcorders and smartphones in tow.
"Are you nervous?" one girl asked another, lined up along the left-field line before the event got underway.
"Yeah," she replied. "I didn't think I would be, but now I am. It's so cool."
The boys and girls were divided into four age groups: 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, and 13-14. They had already advanced past local and sectional rounds, and this was the final hurdle.
All 30 Major League clubs hold a Pitch, Hit and Run competition, and the top three scorers nationally in each age group compete in the finals during All-Star weekend.
"Way to go, Superman!" yelled one supporter to Andrew Saldana of Lathrop, Calif., after he fired a few strikes in the pitching portion.
The kids got three swings apiece off a tee from home plate, and were timed dashing from second to home.
Final scores were calculated, winners were announced, and everyone, regardless of performance, received a plaque.
"You were on a Major League field," one dad reminded his son after meeting him in the stands behind third base.
For some of the kids, that simple fact was enough.
"Dad, look what I got: a ball that was on the field!" beamed Connor Poreidor of Jackson, Calif., the winner of the ages 7-8 boys division.
Then he added, almost as an aside: "I hope I get to go to..."
"Minnesota," he was reminded.
The national finalists will be announced June 29 on MLB Network.
Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less