Bender headed to MLB All-Star Game|
Friday, June 29, 2012
By Jaclyn Yingling Sports Editor
It's a dream for many youngsters to one day play in the major leagues and maybe get the chance to go to the MLB All-Star Game.
But for Ty Bender, son of Chad and Barbie Bender, of Woodland, part of that dream is about to become a reality.
Bender, 11, was recently selected as one of three kids in his age group, and 24 total across the country, to participate in the 2012 Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit and Run National Finals at the site of the MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 9.
The 24 finalists were announced on the MLB Network on Sunday night.
"I was very excited," said Bender. "My family was all excited, too."
The Aquafina Pitch, Hit and Run competition is designed to allow youth to demonstrate their skills in pitching, hitting and running competitions. PHR participants can advance through four levels of competition, beginning at the local level, which can be hosted by organizations, leagues or volunteers within a community. The competition then continues through the sectional and team competitions.
All 30 Major League Baseball clubs hosted championships at their ballparks on weekends May 26 through June 24.
The three top competitors nationwide from each of the four age groups advance to the 2012 Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit and Run National Finals.
In addition to participating in the finals, the 24 finalists will make a special trip to MLB All-Star FanFest, an interactive baseball theme park and the largest baseball fan event in the world. The event features batting cages, clinics from Major League legends and free autograph sessions.
The finalists will also shag balls in the outfield during State Farm Home Run Derby on July 9 and attend the MLB All-Star Game on July 10.
"He's most excited about shagging fly balls at the Home Run Derby," said Ty's mom. "They sent us a questionnaire to fill out with his shoe size, T-shirt size, glove size and all of that. It's going to be a great experience for him."
When asked if Bender was going to be one of those kids who go all out in the outfield, diving for balls, he replied, "Yes."
It shouldn't be too much of a different environment for the Four Leaf Clover all-star, who plays outfield and catches for the team.
He also played first base and third base for his Bigler Little League team and coach Tim Morgan this year.
But Bender's favorite spot is behind the dish, and he hopes to continue playing there for years to come.
Bender first qualified for the tournament by winning the local Aquafina Pitch, Hit and Run Competition in the 11- and 12-year-old age group hosted by the Bigler YMCA and its director Russ Krise.
At Bigler, he qualified for the State College competition, where he once again finished in first place.
He then moved on to the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Regional Competition at PNC Park on June 23.
There, Bender won the overall team championship for his age division.
Bender was quoted on mlb.com after winning his division, saying his favorite part of the day was the hitting and that he was impressed, "how nice the field is," at PNC Park.
After winning the regional competition, Bender received tickets to that night's Detroit Tigers-Pirates game and was honored in a pre-game ceremony, along with the other winners from the other divisions.
Then it was a waiting game for the Benders to see if Ty had qualified for the national competition.
"We were told to watch MLB Network between 6:10 and 6:50 p.m.," said Barbie. "We were all watching the TV and at 6:42 p.m. they announced his name. He was sitting on the floor with his hands around his knees rocking back and forth when they finally called his name. People started calling us left and right and texting."
One of those people who called was Clearfield head baseball coach and Ty's uncle, Sid Lansberry.
"He called me and told me congratulations," Ty said. "He's taught me a lot about baseball."
Over 650,000 contestants participated in the competition at 4,000 local events across the country. Winners in those events moved on to regional competition.
Regional winners were then put into a pool along with winners of the Pitch, Hit and Run events at the other 29 Major League Baseball ballparks around the country.
Each player was then ranked, and the top three in each age division were invited to Kansas City.
Bender, who will be representing the Pittsburgh Pirates was selected in the top three along with Kyler Fedko, of Gibsonia, Pa., representing the Cleveland Indians and Coy Bila, of Chadron, Neb., representing the Colorado Rockies.
Bender and Fedko are the only two finalists from Pennsylvania.
Bender is also the finalist to make it from our area to the national stage. A handful of other kids have qualified from the Bigler local competition to PNC Park, but have never made it this far.
And while Bender will be representing one of his favorite teams, the Pirates, he is also excited to see players from his other favorite team - the New York Yankees - and maybe even his favorite player Albert Pujols.
"I'm excited to see Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson," Bender said. "I also want to see Justin Verlander pitch."
Bender and his dad are flying out on July 8. His mom, sister Olivia, and grandparents will follow by car.
As part of the package, Bender and his dad will get two tickets to every event during All-Star week and will try to attend as many of the fan festivities as possible.
Matt Hilley, a Pitch, Hit and Run representative who was interviewed by MLB.com, said, "Our national finalists have pretty much the baseball trip of a lifetime. We're trying to make dreams come true."
Turns out one already has for an 11-year-old boy from a small town in Clearfield County.