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With parents cheering them on, youngsters test their baseball skills

With parents cheering them on, youngsters test their baseball skills

May 07, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

Keep your eyes on the ball.

Hands back, head up.

Concentrate.

Parents offered their best advice as children took their hacks at baseball on a tee during a competition testing pitching, hitting and running abilities Sunday at Hagerstown's American Little League field on Mill Street.

For 9-year-old Matthew Paul, the words of Babe Ruth are never far from his head. That's because his mother wrote them on his helmet.

On one part of Matthew's helmet, Melody Paul of Hagerstown wrote the Sultan of Swat's advice: "Never let the fear of striking out get in your way." The advice on the bill is even more direct: "Swing away."

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"That way, if he can't hear me screaming for him, he knows it's there," Paul said.

Susie Salvagni, events and programs specialist for the City of Hagerstown, said about 70 girls and boys ages 7 to 14 registered to participated in the Pitch, Hit & Run contest sponsored by Pepsi and Major League Baseball.

The best players from around the country will advance through regional and sectional contests to compete in San Francisco during All-Star weekend in July.

In the warm-up pitching cages, a small boy with glasses heaved a ball at a blue target. Legs and arms akimbo, the boy adopted a shot-putter's stance, flailing as he threw. The ball landed in the dirt and bounced.

After his turn in the pitching contest, the boy threw his mitt into the ground, as a woman yelled out a reminder to concentrate.

To Toni Gantt, the lessons of summer-league ball extend beyond the diamond. The mother of nine - enough children to field a team - said she believes playing on a team teaches responsibility and discipline.

While her children are on the field, though, Gantt said her own advice is limited.

"Just go out and have fun," Gantt said. "Just go out and have fun."

While other participants struggled in the pitching contest, 9-year-old Queizahn, Gantt's son, explained his success.

"Lob it," he said.

In the hitting round, one boy smacked the tee as he took his cuts at the fences. A few minutes later, 12-year-old Philip Pietro smashed a couple of balls deep.

He told admirers he swung under the ball.

After the round, Philip sat with his 11-year-old neighbor, Josh Moats, of Hagerstown.

Philip said he regularly practices by hitting off of a tee, and he showed he's taken all of that good advice to heart.

"It helps you watch the ball," Philip said.




The winners



The following Pitch, Hit & Run participants won events in their age groups:

· Age 7/8

Overall champion and hit and run champion - Myles Nicholson of Hagerstown

Pitch champion - Jaret Lazich of Big Pool

· Age 9/10

Overall champion and pitch and hit champion - Jeremiah Younker of Maugansville

Run champion - Riley Lazich of Big Pool

· Age 11/12

Overall champion and run champion - Tre Jessie of Hagerstown

Hit champion - Philip Pietro of Hagerstown

Pitch champions (nine-way tie) - Tre Jessie of Hagerstown, Noah Wright of Hagerstown, Lane Hessong of Hagerstown, Kyle Andrew Blackburn of Hagerstown, Che Swayne of Hagerstown, Brandon Whittaker of Hagerstown, Joshua T. Moats of Hagerstown, Tyler Maust of Hagerstown, Drequan Johnson of Hagerstown

· Age 13/14

Overall champion and pitch and hit champion - Scott Rubeck of Hagerstown

Run champion - Ashmihre Wilson of Hagerstown

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