Scotts MLB Pitch Hit & Run National Finals Experience - Abbey Smith

7/5/2017

Hi! My name is Abbey Smith and I am 14 years old from Austin, Texas. I will be representing the Houston Astros during the Scotts MLB Pitch Hit & Run National Finals. I have competed in PHR for five years and am a five time Team Champion but this is my first time qualifying for the National Finals during Major League Baseball All-Star Week.  Every year, I miss going to National Finals by less than 75 points during the Team Championship. That’s just hitting one more target. THOSE TARGETS!

Each year, I contact the sponsor of my local competition, Beyond the Bases, to find out the dates of the local competition.  Then I begin to practice.  I hit from the left side on my travel team, Impact Gold National 14U, so I have to work on my right side swing each year.  Because I’m a natural right handed hitter, hitting from the right side for PHR generates more power.  Running comes naturally as I also run track at school, but those targets!  Targets are always the hardest.  I can hit all 6 targets at the local competition, and even the Sectional Competition, but by the time I get to Team Championships, I usually only hit 4-5.  Good enough to win the Team Championship, but not good enough to make it to the National Finals.  THOSE TARGETS!

Each year I make Pitch Hit & Run a priority. My dad contacts PHR each year to see which competition in the state of Texas works with my travel ball schedule. I often have to travel several hours away to compete in the Sectional Competition.  This year, I had to travel 3 hours away to Deer Park, Texas, to compete early on a Saturday morning. We were able to complete the events in any order at our own pace. I had to leave immediately after completing the events to travel an hour to get to my travel team’s softball tournament in North Houston. Since I had to leave so quickly I was unable to watch any of the other competitors.  Luckily, I only had to wait a few days to find out I had qualified for the 2017 Team Championship at the Houston Astros the next weekend.  This would be my last chance!

On the morning of the Team Championship, my parents and I got up at 3:30 am to drive to Houston, Texas.  The Team Competition began at 7:45 and we had to check in at 7:15 am.  I always practice before I compete, so my dad drove ¼ mile away from the stadium to find an empty parking lot.  At 6:15 am my family set to work.  My dad and I threw for a while to warm up my arm while my mom set up a Bownet and a target.  I only threw 12 balls and since I hit the target each time my parents made me stop.  They didn’t want me to over think the targets too much this year.  Next was hitting.  I carry a tee everywhere.  I set the tee up in the parking lot and started hitting, aiming for a light pole across the parking lot.  My mom had to shag balls before they rolled away.  After my warm up, we packed up the car and drove to Minute Maid Park and got in line.

This was it!  This was my last opportunity to do well enough to go to the National Finals!  We were led down stairs through the Astros Clubhouse onto the field at Minute Maid Park.  Everyone seemed nervous as no one was talking.  We were told the targets would be first!  OH, NO! THE TARGETS FIRST!  After warming up with a girl in my age group, I waited for my turn impatiently. Finally, it was my turn.  I took a deep breath, blocked out everyone around me.  I just barely missed the first target, but hit the next five.  I felt good but just hoped it would be good enough.  We ran next and then hit.  My first hit was a line drive to centerfield.  The PHR rep said that hit was okay.  I adjusted slightly and hit the second ball deeper into centerfield.  The PHR rep said, “That is probably the hit you wanted.”  One more hit.  I needed to make it the best to make up for missing a target.  I took a deep breath and swung.  This was the best hit yet.  The PHR rep at the hitting station said, “You did it!”

I returned to the others and waited for the competition to end.  At last they announced the winners.  I was the girls 13-14 years PHR Houston Astros Team Champion.  I was a five time Team Champion.  But best of all I had a chance to compete against other Team Champions for a chance to go to the National Competition.  Unfortunately, Houston was one of the first competitions and we had to wait a month before the announcements.

June 26, 2017 I was in Denver, Colorado for my travel team’s softball tournament.  My dad and I were at the hotel getting ready to go to dinner when my dad said it was almost time for the announcement.  We had to watch on my dad’s computer.  I text my mom, who was home in Austin, to see if she was watching.  The MLB Tonight news segment seemed soooo long before they started announcing the winners. Finally, the PHR announcement came.  My heart beat rapidly.  Across the screen flashed the list of winners and I saw my name “13/14 Softball: Abbey Smith, from Austin, Texas.”    My mom called my cell phone and was rapidly talking to me. My dad was trying talking too.   It took me a few minutes to process it all.  I had made it!   I am going to the MLB Pitch Hit & Run National Finals in Miami, Florida.

I would like to thank MLB Pitch Hit & Run, Houston Astros and Scotts for the opportunity to compete and challenge myself each year.  I would like to thank Scott and Brody Roush of Beyond the Bases for the encouragement each year and for allowing me to help in their non-profit organization of providing equipment to under privilege kids. I also want to thank my hitting coach, Jerry Taylor, for always being available and pushing me to reach new levels.  Finally, thank you to my family for their constant love, support and dedication to providing me with every opportunity possible to reach my goals.