You’ll forgive 10-year-old Michael Rivera these days if he’s having a sleepless night or two.
It was over two weeks ago that the Miami Springs youngster traveled to Marlins Park and it wasn’t to catch a Marlins game. Rivera, along with 12-year-old Matthew Ruiz was there with his bat, glove and dressed in full uniform to compete in the Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run Competition.
And Rivera did a lot more than just compete in the 9-10 Year-Olds Division. He won it, beating out two other kids, one from the Fort Myers area, the other from Pembroke Pines.
Ruiz also proudly represented Miami Springs Little League by coming in with a third place plaque in the 11-12s division.
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While both received plaques for their outstanding achievement, it’s Rivera who has been waiting anxiously these last few weeks as 29 other major league teams are holding their respective competitions.
When those are concluded, each kid who finished first in their respective age groups will have their numbers inputted into a data base and whoever finishes first through third out of the 30 kids will have quite a reward waiting for them.
Not only an all-expenses-paid trip to the Major League All-Star game at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 15 but also a spot on the field to shag ball during the Home Run Derby competition the day before. Preceding the Home Run Derby will be the actual PHR National Finals which is hosted annually in conjunction with MLB All-Star Week.
According to the rules, the final weekend of competition will be this weekend and the three lucky kids from each age group will be notified by next Sunday evening, June 29 to see if they made the cut. The results will be announced live on the Major League Baseball Network.
“I’m certainly hoping I get the call,” said Rivera who will be busy this weekend playing for the Miami Springs Minors All-Star team in the District 8 North Division playoffs at Prince Field. “It would be a really exciting thing and something I could tell my kids and family about some day. It was a lot of fun competing just as it was two years ago.”
It was not Rivera’s first trip to Marlins Park. Two years ago, as an eight-year-old he made it through the local and sectional qualifying and competed in the same venue, only that time he had to settle for a third place finish.
“I think maybe having competed in it already may have helped me this time around,” said Rivera. “You get the experience of going through it and maybe you’re a little less nervous going through it again.”
The MLB Pitch, Hit & Run Competition is a free, exciting skills event for both boys and girls where participants have the opportunity to compete in four levels of competition including team championship events.
The Pitch portion of the program tests how accurately a competitor can throw strikes to a designated “Strike Zone” target from a designated distance (35 feet for the girls softball division and 45 feet for the boys baseball division) with a grand total of six throws.
The Hit portion of the program tests the competitor's ability to hit from a stationary batting tee, along a tape measure from home plate, toward straight-way center field. Hits are measured for both distance and accuracy. Each kid is allowed three swings. Only the best of the three attempts as determined by tournament officials, count toward the score.
Finally comes the Run portion of the competition which measures each kid’s speed in a sprint from the start line, touching third base, and touching home plate. The boys run a total of 160 feet whereas the girls run a total of 120 feet.
Both Rivera and Ruiz started on the local level, competing right here in Miami Springs back in early May. After emerging victorious there, they moved on to the Sectional Competition, held in Hialeah in mid-May. There, they again needed to finish first in order to make it to Marlins Park and did so.
“We (he and Ruiz) were both proud to represent Miami Springs and it would be great to take that all the way to Minnesota,” said Rivera.