A look at the diamond

Published 10:50 pm Saturday, April 26, 2014

On the clock: Eight-year-old Melvin Moore runs the bases, joined by 9-year-old Cason Moore, during the MLB's Pitch, Hit and Run event on Wednesday outside Creekside Recreation Center. (Titus Mohler/Suffolk News-Herald)

On the clock: Eight-year-old Melvin Moore runs the bases, joined by 9-year-old Cason Moore, during the MLB’s Pitch, Hit and Run event on Wednesday outside Creekside Recreation Center. (Titus Mohler/Suffolk News-Herald)

Pitch, Hit and Run event attracts fresh talent

Some Suffolk youth got a special introduction to America’s pastime last week, while others simply got better acquainted or warmed up for impending league play. For the sixth year, Suffolk Parks and Recreation responded to Major League Baseball’s request to get youth involved in baseball through its free Pitch, Hit and Run event.

The event puts participants in an MLB-sponsored national competition with the possibility of advancing, first to sectionals, taking place at Harbor Park in Norfolk this May, then a state championship and ultimately to the finals at the MLB All-Star Game in Minnesota this July.

A total of 47 Suffolk boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 14 participated in the event this year. The competition helped provide incentive for the simple goal the city was aiming to accomplish.

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“Our goal was to bring new kids out to the sport of baseball and softball and to get the kids outside and active — that was our biggest goal,” said Roberto Ramos of Suffolk Parks and Recreation.

The city tried to involve a wide range of Suffolk’s youth. The event was initially set as a one-day, two-hour session outside Creekside Recreation Center on Wednesday. During planning leading up to the event, though, it was decided another session would be added on Thursday outside Kings Fork Creation Center.

“It was a decision later on to give the other part of the city a chance and then to target some of those older kids,” Ramos said.

While Creekside is located next to an elementary school, helping to draw that age group, Kings Fork is next to a middle school.

Ten youths participated on Thursday, most of them in the targeted 12-14 age group.

Ramos said the Creekside session showed growth from last year, including 37 youths, with a heavy concentration of 8- and 9-year-olds.

Suffolk Parks and Recreation’s Christopher Copeland Jr. said 75 percent of the participants were regulars at the Creekside center, and some were serious, experienced players, getting tuned up for playing with their teams.

“We saw some talented kids out here,” Jamaris Sanders of Suffolk Parks and Recreation said Wednesday.

Copeland noted he and his colleagues were also expanding the horizons of some of the youths in a big way.

“You’re introducing the game to the smaller kids who might not have had a chance to play,” he said.

Eight-year-old Tariq Parker had prior experience with football and basketball.

“This is his first time doing some baseball,” his father, Tarane Parker said on Wednesday. “I try to keep him busy.”

The event was broken up into three stations, with points awarded for performance. At one station, participants saw how far they could hit the ball, measured in feet. At another, they threw the ball and tried to hit a target, and finally, they were timed as they ran the bases.

“Over there, I almost hit a home run,” Tariq said, pointing to the hitting station. “That was the most challenging.”

He shared a lesson he learned from the day: “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Melvin Moore, also 8, had some previous experience, having been to a baseball camp, but he benefited from some throwing tips Wednesday.

And though it was not a required part of the event, he said, “I really liked catching today.”

Winners of individual events in each age division will compete in sectionals at Harbor Park on May 17. Sectionals will feature the winners from Pitch, Hit and Run events held all around Hampton Roads.