BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A local third grader was able to play a little baseball in the outfield at Wrigley Field on May 31.
Jay Ellison, an eight-year-old in the Holy Trinity Catholic school system advanced to the Scott’s Pitch, Hit and Run’s Team Championship after winning a local and sectional level of competition earlier this summer.
Ellison initially qualified for the sectional with his friend, Stefan Berlett. Berlett qualified by winning the local running competition held at Baxter’s Sports Complex in Fort Madison on April 28. Ellison also qualified by winning the hitting portion of that competition.
The two were automatically entered into the sectional that took place in the Quad Cities in May, where Ellison took first-place overall in the 7-8 year old age group. Berlett, took 3rd overall disqualifying him from the Team Championships in Chicago.
The two boys play baseball together on teams in Denmark and Fort Madison and also played on a traveling Holy Trinity Crusaders youth team this summer under HTC’s high school coach Albert Schinstock.
Ellison said the local competition in Fort Madison didn’t have a lot of kids, but he said it was hard because there were other older kids competing there as well. But he said he wasn’t sure what to expect at the sectional in the Quad Cities.
“I didn’t know how hard they were gonna hit, how fast they’ll pitch or how fast they’re gonna run,” he said.
Berlett said he only had winning in mind.
“I just kept saying to myself, ‘I really wanna win this…I really wanna win this,” he said.
As part of the Scott’s competitions, the winner of the sectionals isn’t guaranteed an invitation to the Team Championships. Those invitations are also based on performance against others in the age groups at other sectional competitions within those Major League Baseball markets.
According to the rules of the Scott’s competitions, the PITCH portion of the program will test how accurately a competitor can throw strikes to a designated “Strike Zone” target from a designated distance (45 feet for the baseball division). Any method of underhand/overhand pitching or throwing is accepted. An attempt hitting ANY portion of the target will be deemed a strike
The HIT portion of the program will test a competitor’s ability to hit from a stationary batting tee, along a tape measure from home plate, toward straight-away centerfield. Hits are measured for distance and accuracy.
The RUN portion of the program will measure a competitor’s speed in a sprint from the start line, typically second base, touching third base, and touching home plate with participants running a total of 120 feet.
Ellison said competing in front of the fans at Wrigley was something he won’t forget.
“There was lots of people in the stands before the game. Once in a while I looked up,” he said.
His father, Robert, who attended the competition, also enjoyed the experience.
“You got two free tickets to the game,” he said. “But it was really neat standing up next to all that ivy. The competition wasn’t on the field, but on the warning track.”
Ellison finished third overall at Wrigley which disqualified home from moving onto the national championship at the All-Star Game this year. But on Saturday, the discouragement had faded as he took grounders at second with his Berlett thinking about the future.
“My favorite sport is baseball and I’d like to do this again next year,” he said.
The two will compete in a higher age bracket next year moving to the 9-10 year old division. Berlett said his favorite sport is basketball, but dad Brent said with a laugh, “It’s whatever’s in season.”
It was the first year either of the two competed in the Scott’s program. The Baxter Sports Complex has hosted the event for the past two years.
“There weren’t a whole lot of kids out there, but I think it’s only the second year they’ve done it,” Robert Ellison said.
More information on the competition can be found at https://www.pitchhitrun.com/ or in the spring on the Baxter Sports Complex web page at www.fortmadisonsportscomplex.com