Grace Lyons, 13, attended the annual National Finals for Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit & Run competition in the girls’ softball division. The competition took place July 15 at Citi Field in New York City, with Grace finishing as the runner up in her age group.
Grace, the daughter of Lt. Col. John Lyons of the 69th Fighter Squadron, was one of 23 competitors and the only contestant from Arizona to make it to the finals.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” Lyons said, who was also a contestant when he was a child. “She’s been really committed.”
Sponsored by Scotts National, the PHR is a four-stage competition open to boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 14. From mid-March to MLB All-Star Week in July, the contestants take part in the local, sectional and the MLB team championships, culminating with the National Finals before the All-Star game in New York City.
More than 600,000 youth participated in more than 4,000 competitions that took place across North America, MLB said in a press release. The top three competitors nationwide from each age group (7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14) advanced to the finals.
With so many other participants, it takes more than a passing interest in the sport to make it to New York City’s Citi Field.
“Grace has played a combination of Little League and baseball since she was about 7 years old,” Lyons said. “She’s practiced off and on the field five days a week.”
Each competition consists of the three main components of baseball and the program’s namesake: pitching, hitting and running.
For the pitching portion, contestants must hit what is called the “Strike Zone,” with six pitches from a specified distance. Girls throw softballs, while boys throw baseballs.
The hitting segment requires participants to strike the ball as accurately and far as possible in three attempts.
What tends to follow a successful hit is covered in the third portion, where contestants run from second base to home in an attempt to beat the times of their peers. Various prizes are awarded between the local competitions and the finals, ranging from trophies to certificates.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for young kids,” Lyons said. “It’s a tough competition throughout.”
For Grace, the experience has been an exciting moment in her life.
“Competing at the MLB All-Star game as a pitch hit and run finalist was an absolute dream come true for me,” Grace said. “I met some amazing friends and shared an experience that will last a lifetime.”