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

7/14/2017

My mom, dad, and I arrived at the Austin airport early ready to fly to Miami.  I was so excited to get started.  I bought a snack and drink and settled down to wait for our flight.  The flight to Miami was quick but we noticed the heat immediately upon leaving the plane.  We were met in baggage claim by two representatives from PHR and were told how to get to the hotel. 

We took a taxi to the hotel.  This was my first taxi ride.  The airport was in the middle of the city so there were a lot of tall buildings to see but I was hoping to get a glimpse of the beach.  I mean this is Miami! At the hotel, we were met by two more PHR representatives.  I had to sign some papers and have my picture taken.  The hotel desk clerk asked me if I wanted a room on a low floor or a high floor.  I chose a high floor and was not disappointed.  Our room had a view of the Miami River.  I was a little like the San Antonio Riverwalk only with yachts.   After going over the itinerary we realized we had a couple of hours until dinner.  It was time to explore.   We walked down the river marveling at the expensive yachts along the way.   It was quite hot in Miami so we grabbed a drink and headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

At the welcome reception/dinner there was a buffet and twelve large round tables all set for dinner.  Families slowly entered and chose places to sit.  I wanted to sit on the side and watch everyone.  I was eager to see who I would be competing against.  Another family sat at our table and we chatted about our trips and where we lived.  Then we watched a video that introduced all the PHR participants and listened to Tony Reagins from MLB, Stacey Hepp from USA Softball, and Bennett Mayfield from PHR.  My favorite speakers were Jackie Trainer and Molly Fichtner from University of Alabama who were part of the USA Softball organization.  I had watched them on TV so many times and now we had a chance to meet them. We received backpacks from USA Softball and drawstring tote bag/towel from MLB.  PHR gave every participant a new black bat bag full of uniforms and souvenirs.  The competition had not even started and I was so excited, I could not thank everyone enough.

The next day we went down to breakfast early and made sure to be on time for the bus.  We were going to Fan Fest.   It was like a baseball fans dream.  Baseball gear and souvenirs were everywhere.  My favorite stand was the All-American Girls Baseball League.  I love watching the movie A League of Their Own.  We had to make several appearances when we arrived.  We had our picture taken with Scott’s, did interviews with MLB.com, and had fun doing MLB drills. The best part was getting to go to the front of the line at each activity as lines were long at every event.

After Fan Fest, we went to the PlayBall Park and played a game of baseball.  By now all the participants had become friends.  We were competitive but able to laugh freely with each other.  It was fun but very hot.  I hit three balls over the fence.  I was ready to get back on the bus and into air conditioning.  Finally it was time to go to the All-Star Futures Game and Celebrity Softball Game.

Monday we went back to Fan Fest.  We were supposed to have some free time but PHR told us we had the opportunity to go on the field with Bryce Harper if we wanted too.  Most of us chose to go to the field.  Bryce Harper was interviewed and introduced his new baseball cleat.  I didn’t have any time to explore as it was finally time to compete.

The bus was quite on the way to Marlins Park.  I sat with my bat bag on my lap nervous about the competition.  This is what I had waited for, I told myself not to mess up.  We had to wait outside Marlin’s Park when we arrived.  One of my competitors’ started throwing with her dad so I asked my dad to throw with me.  Soon almost everyone was throwing and warming up outside the ballpark.  Right before we walked in a man called my name.  It was Mark Berman from Fox Houston.  He said he was there to follow me and write a story.  I took a deep breath, smiled and said “Thank you!”  Now, I was seriously nervous. 

Once inside the ballpark we were led to the dugout and told the order we would compete.  An announcer introduced each one of us as we came out on the field.  Hitting was first.  The first hit was okay but tailed a little off the line.  My last hit was definitely my best.  I felt good after hitting but knew I had to stay focused.    Next was pitching.   I walked out to the pitching mound for my turn.  This target was different. In the past we throw to a flat target. The target was an opening in a net.  We had to make it into the hole. My score for pitching was one less than my competitors, I was starting to worry.  I was terrified I was going to lose.  I took several deep breaths and tried to remain calm.  There was nothing I could do now to change what had happened.  I had to continue and just do my best.  Last event was running.  As I rounded third I heard the announcer say I held the running record for my age group but right now I was just focused on touching home plate. I beat my own personal best time.  For me the competition was over so I went back to the dugout and cheered on the boys.

After the competition we were led to the Media Room.  Participants sat in the front row while parents and family filed in to the back of the room.   There was a nervous silence amongst the participants. At last the awards were announced.  I took a deep breath as 13-14 softball awards were announced.  Third place was called, not me.  I held my breath…second place announced.  I had WON!!!! My name was announced as winner.  I excitedly stepped over the bat bags trying not to fall as I went up to the stage.  After all awards were presented pictures were taken and then I was asked to stay behind for several interviews.   I finally looked at my parents.  They always get so sentimental I knew I would have a hard time keeping my composure if I looked them.   This was the end of five years’ worth of work.   I had finally succeeded.  I was excited and sad.  This was my last Pitch Hit Run competition.

After the competition we had a couple hours of free time, so I joined some of my new friends for time at the pool.   We talked and played and enjoyed our time together.  We only had one more thing to do before we left Miami, the Home Run Derby.

As soon as we arrived at Marlins Park for the Home Run Derby the participants went to a separate building.  We had pizza and cookies.  There were other kids there who were also going to shag balls.  We were all told the order that we would take the field.  I had made friends with one of the younger participants and we sort of hung out together.  During the Home Run Derby we stayed in the bullpen waiting our turn.  Finally it was our turn and we all ran out quickly to attempt to catch a ball.  One of the baseball players knew where players normally hit so I followed him.  I caught three balls!  Baseballs are a lot harder to catch than softballs.

I made a lot of friends during Pitch Hit Run Finals.  The 13-14 softball and baseball players formed a group chat.  We are still in contact with one another.  My advice to anyone who wants try is to get out there and compete.  If you don’t make it the first time….DON’T STOP TRYING!  Believe in yourself, keep dreaming and never stop working toward your goal. 

I would like to thank Scotts, Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros, and Pitch Hit & Run for this amazing opportunity. Thank you to Matt Engleka, Bennett Mayfield, Robert Hooks, and Kelly Peterson for all that you did to make this a remarkable experience.   I am glad that my parents were there to enjoy this moment with me.  This is moment we will never forget!  I am too old to return next year but I hope I can encourage other girls and boys to compete in Pitch Hit & Run and I look forward to volunteering in local competitions in my area.