ANAHEIM -- Being from Hawaii, Levi Horner doesn't get to go to many Angels games. But on Saturday morning, he got the chance to play on the same field as his favorite team and his favorite player, Albert Pujols, as part of the annual Pitch, Hit & Run event, where children between the ages of 7 and 14 competed to earn a spot in the national finals during All-Star weekend in Kansas City. The program is the "Official Youth Skills Competition of Major League Baseball" and began with all 30 teams in 1997. It had more than 685,000 participants across North America in 2012 in girls softball and boys baseball divisions.
And after going through a number of local competitions, Levi, who competed in the boys' 13-14 division, was one of eight winners of the 24 kids in the Angels championship who competed on Saturday. He said his favorite position is pitcher, but he can play almost anywhere on the diamond. "It's a great experience to be here playing on the field. I don't know what to say," said Levi, standing with a smile at the top step of the Angels' dugout. "I could have done better, but I'm just happy that I made it this far." Participants threw six pitches at a strike zone, hit three balls off a tee and ran from second base to home plate in an attempt to earn points. The top three scores in each age and gender group out of all 30 Major League team championships will advance to the national finals during All-Star week. Over 4,000 local competitions take place each year and are hosted by organizations, leagues or volunteers within a community. But for Krystina Lorch, this wasn't her first go-around in the Pitch, Hit & Run competition. Krystina, from Hemet, Ca., competed in the girls' 11-12 division on Saturday, her third time participating in the event. The thrill of it hasn't subsided for her just yet, though. "I was a little nervous, but then again, I was excited," Krystina said. "I wanted to see how far I was going to be able to go. This year, I really hope I can make it all the way. If not, I'll keep trying." As for playing on the same grass her favorite ballplayer, Torii Hunter, Krystina was in awe. "Words can't describe how it feels," she said. "I love the Angels. They're my favorite team, and just being in the dugout, it's an honor."
Joe McIntyre is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.