HOUSTON -- The players who took the field for Saturday's White Sox-Astros game may be baseball's present, but baseball's future was on display Saturday morning at Minute Maid Park, as 22 boys and girls between the ages of 7-14 participated in the Astros' championship of Major League Baseball's Pinch, Hit & Run competition.
On a balmy morning with the Minute Maid roof open, the kids showed their stuff, albeit to a slightly smaller audience than the park's 40,950 capacity.
Parents, friends, supporters and teammates cheered the competitors from the dugout and the stands. Several fathers even got to witness their children play baseball on a Major League diamond.
"It's a real family atmosphere," said event organizer Matt Perez. "A lot of dads got a great little Father's Day weekend treat and watched their kids actually compete where the pros do. That's always nice to see."
As for the wide-eyed ballplayers, they went through three rounds of events -- throwing pitches at a strike zone, hitting off a tee and running the bases -- before the sectional winner was crowned in each group.
The Houston region is unique, because it involves a huge swath of south Texas, most of Louisiana and some of Mississippi.
"You've got kids from three states here, and they were all excited to be on that stage," Perez said. "It's always fun to see the looks they have and just how big of a moment it is for everyone involved."
The 22 participants on Saturday were winners in the local and regional rounds before they took the Minute Maid field. Each team across the Major Leagues holds a Pitch, Hit & Run event, then the top three qualifiers from each age group around the country will receive an all-expenses paid trip to New York to compete at Citi Field on All-Star Weekend.
The Houston region first-place winners were: Brooklyn Jaegar (Fayetteveille, Texas) and Ryne Farber (San Antonio, Texas) among the 7-8 year olds; Abbey Smith (Austin, Texas) and Parker Lee (Friendswood, Texas) in the 9-10 year-old division; Avery Dowling (Spring, Texas) and Mitch Murrell (Ocean Springs, Miss.) for the 11-12 age group; Morgan Dowling (Spring, Texas) and Roy Quiantanilla (McAllen, Texas) in the 13-14 age group.
The winners were announced in a trophy presentation following the event and were then featured in an on-field ceremony before Saturday night's game. Other teams' regional competitions for the event, which is in its 17th year, will continue throughout June.
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less