Scotts MLB Pitch Hit & Run National Finalist Experience - Kaiea Higa
Hi! My name is Kaiea Higa, I’m 12 years old and from Maple Valley, WA and representing the Seattle Mariners during the Scotts MLB Pitch Hit & Run National Finals. Go Mariners!! I was so happy when I found out that I was able to participate in Pitch Hit & Run this year AND I didn’t have a fastpitch tournament that interfered with it.
This is my second time competing in PHR. The first time I competed was in 2014 and I won the Seattle Mariners Team Championship, but didn’t qualify for the National Finals during All-Star, as I came in 8th place. So close…but yet so far.
Until this year… I was excited to start my PHR mission to qualify for the All-Star game.
As soon as I found out the dates of my local competition in Kent, WA, I began practicing. I worked on my hitting and running during my normal practices with my 12U Washington Acers Fastpitch team. I needed to practice my pitching on my own time. If you ever happen to drive by my house, you’d see me on the sidewalk repeatedly throwing 6 softballs into an orange Bownet 35 feet away, with my sister (Kalani), and parents (Grant and Michelle) shagging balls for me.
I wasn’t really nervous at the local competition because there weren’t too many kids competing during the event, but I still needed to get the job done. Once I finished the local competition, I felt pretty confident in my performance and was thankful to find out that I won along with my little sister.
Onto the Sectional Competition…We arrived at the Seattle Boys and Girls Club, a large and beautiful multi-sport facility hidden deep in the city of Seattle. Again, I felt comfortable with the atmosphere surrounding me. I try to think of PHR as a fun and rewarding bonus to a game that I already love to play…SOFTBALL.
I reminded myself, “Remember, just relax and have fun.” All the families and other competitors were very supportive of each other throughout the event. I was excited that I came in 1st place, but was told we wouldn’t know who qualified for the Team Championships at Safeco Field until a few weeks later.
The next few weeks went quickly with school, homework, and softball keeping me busy. But out of the blue, as I was walking out of my 2nd period class with my phone in my hand, I received a text from my mom and dad. It was a screenshot photo that read…
“Congratulations! As a result of your performance at the Sectional Competition, you have qualified for the 2016 Team Championship…”
Without warning, I started jumping, laughing, and yelling. Waving my phone through the air, I ran down the hall to tell my friends that I qualified for the PHR Seattle Mariners Team Championship at Safeco Field and would compete for a chance to go to the MLB All-Star game! I continued through my school day, trying to contain my excitement until I got home, where I was greeted by my proud and happy family. I received multiple texts and calls from other family members, congratulating me for my accomplishment.
On to the Team Championships at Safeco Field…As the morning finally approached, I drove to Seattle along with my parents. We checked in at the gate and inside the stadium, I received my green PHR t-shirt to wear. Shortly after, all the participants were led through the tunnels underneath Safeco Field to be introduced during the pre-game ceremony. Before I knew it, we were surrounded by the thousands of people that were ready to cheer for the Mariners. I was a little nervous when I heard my name announced over the loud speaker…who wouldn’t be?
I enjoyed watching the Mariners game with my family and friends that came to support me. After the game ended, the stadium was cleared and we began the PHR Team Championship. I hugged my family goodbye, they wished me luck, and headed to their seats. Before I knew it we were heading to the field with only the sound of our rolling equipment bags echoing throughout the cement hall. I think everybody was too caught up in their own thoughts to make any conversation. The field looked much emptier than I remembered it. It was so quiet that you could hear everyone’s sharp inhale as they took in their surroundings.
The contest was a bit of a blur and time passed too quickly. Before I knew it, they had counted all of the scores and we lined up for the trophy presentation. I think I had a bit of a delayed reaction when they announced that I won and was notified that we would have to wait another two weeks until I would find out if I would make it to the All-Star game. I walked out of Safeco Field knowing that I did the best I could. After two long weeks, it was finally time for the announcement. I was at home with my family waiting for the announcement. At last, the screen showed the list of names of the Pitch Hit & Run finalists and my name appeared, “11/12 Softball: Kaiea Higa from Maple Valley, WA”
I’m pretty sure I just stared at the TV screen for a few seconds, blinked, then went back to looking at my phone, smiling, yet still in shock. My family was screaming with excitement and I looked up at them and grinned. A few minutes passed until it really hit me and I thought to myself…“I made it, I did it, and I’m going to the MLB All-Star Game.” This is going to be an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. This is going to be one amazing summer.
I’d like to thank Major League Baseball, Scotts, the Seattle Mariners, and ASA/USA softball. The opportunity to participate in PHR continues to fuel my passion for the sport I love. I’d also like to thank my amazing Acers teammates and coaches… We are #acersstrong! But most of all, thanks to my family. I LOVE YOU ALL! Your support and love will always mean everything to me.
On to the Pitch Hit & Run National Finals in San Diego…