Dodgers Stadium hosts Pitch, Hit & Run event

LOS ANGELES -- All it took was one swing off a tee.

The first cut right-hander Jaden Lyburtus took Saturday sent a ball flying well beyond the 200-foot marker in the Dodger Stadium outfield. As soon as it landed, his competitors in the 13-14-year-old boys division all but conceded defeat.

"That's it," one of the boys said. "We're done."

To be fair, they were facing a reigning national champion.

Lyburtus was the last batter in the last competition on the last day of the MLB Pitch, Hit & Run contest, presented by Scotts -- an event that features boys and girls from ages 7-14 testing their pitching, running and hitting skills. All 30 MLB teams host Pitch, Hit & Run events of their own, and the top three boys and top three girls from the 7-8-year-old, 9-10-year-old, 11-12-year-old and 13-14-year-old divisions across the country are invited to the All-Star Game. The top three will be announced Sunday at noon PT on MLB Network.

Lyburtus came in first place in the 11-12-year-old division at Dodger Stadium last year and went on to win the national championship in the age group in a competition held before the Home Run Derby at Citi Field.

Lyburtus impressed yet again this year, placing first in the 13-14-year-old boys division and hitting the longest-hit ball of the day -- a 288-foot rocket.

But while he had the loudest swings and some of the loudest pops of the strike zone, Lyburtus maintained a quiet composure. Last year's championship was a thing of the past.

"I had a little nerves at first, like always," Lyburtus said. "I'm always nervous."

The event began with a pitching competition as the girls and boys had six pitches to hit a green banner that represented a strike zone. It continued with the running portion, during which each competitor ran 160 feet along makeshift basepaths in the outfield. The competition then concluded with the hitting portion, as each boy and girl had three swings off of a tee.

The event featured children of varying levels of baseball and softball experience. There was Lyburtus, who came in as an early favorite. There was 12-year-old Raul Gallegos, a left-handed pitcher whose cousin, Miguel Gonzalez, pitches for the Baltimore Orioles. There was Shayla Sears, a girl in the 13-14-year-old bracket who had never been to Dodger Stadium before, even as a fan.

"This is huge for her," Shayla's father, Bobby Sears, said. "She's trying to be calm so she doesn't get nervous."

All of the competitors hailed from California, so many were Dodgers fans. Carmelo Hernandez, who finished first in the 11-12-year-old division, said he's a fan of outfielder Matt Kemp. Bobby Sears joked his daughter liked "whoever's cute."

"No," she said. "I like pretty much everybody."

Gallegos gave a popular answer -- Yasiel Puig.

"He puts a lot of effort in," Gallegos said. "He'll hurt himself to catch a ball. He'll do anything to make the Dodgers win. That's what I like about him."

As for Lyburtus, he's a fan of Yankees-turned-Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano. And on Saturday, at least, he swung with similar explosiveness.

Then again, that's nothing new for the reigning national champ.

His secret?

"I don't know," Lyburtus said. "I just come out and have fun."

He certainly wasn't the only one.

Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.