This spring, the Major League Baseball Pitch Hit & Run Team Competition in New York City has not only a familiar local ring to it, but a familial one as well.
Brothers Caden and Cal Albright, the sons of Ben and Abbey Albright of Virgil, and Adam Minnard, the son of Tom and Renee Minnard of Cortland, will be part of the Team Competition level of the Scott’s Pitch, Hit and Run program at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, Sunday morning.
It will be the second consecutive year of Team Competition for Caden Albright and Minnard after both were involved in last year’s event at Yankee Stadium.
Caden Albright, 10, will compete in the Boys’ 9-10 age group for the second year in a row; Minnard, 13, is in the Boys’ 13-14 competition and Cal Albright, 7, is in the Boys’ 7-8 age group after all three won at the Sectional level May 20 at NYSEG Stadium, the home of the Eastern League’s Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
Their scores were compared to scores from other sectional events in the state, and all were among the top three, which earned them berths at Citi Field Sunday.
Caden, a fourth-grader at Virgil Elementary; Minnard, an eighth-grader at Cortland Junior-Senior High and Cal, a second-grader at Virgil Elementary, earned the right to compete in Binghamton by winning their age groups in the local Pitch, Hit and Run competition in Cortland last month. Points are awarded for pitching at a major-league strike zone from 46 feet, hitting a baseball off a tee for distance and on a line off a tee and running 160 feet from a bit past second base to home plate.
“I was really surprised about making it,” Minnard said. “We didn’t get the original e-mail and only found out about it Monday. “I had a feeling that I was doing really well (in Binghamton) and that I had a good score. I’m a Yankees fan, but it doesn’t matter that we’re going to the Mets’ home park. It’s just as good. I think having been at this level before will be an advantage. I won’t be as nervous as the first time.”
“After the running and hitting (at Binghamton) I was a little behind,” Caden Albright said, “but I had confidence from last year and pitched really well. I did think I was going to make it. I watched Cal going against the other kids in his bracket and he destroyed them. I’m proud of him. We’re going to be competing together at City Field, and that makes it more exciting.”
“I’m happy,” Cal Albright said of his upcoming adventure. “I’m excited to be going to my dad’s favorite team’s stadium. They’re my favorite team, too. I wanted to join in after last year, and I’m also happy because Caden and I get to see each other compete. He gives me advice on pitching”
The fact that the competition is on Father’s Day makes it more special for all three boys.
Minnard is going to be competing in a tournament in Mansfield, Pa. this weekend with the Broome Bandits travel team. His father is going to drive him from there to New York early Sunday morning for the competition, and then take him back to Mansfield for more tournament baseball right after.
“I think it’s going to a special time, really fun,” Minnard said.
“I’m excited to be going to my dad’s favorite team’s stadium. They’re my favorite team, too,” Cal Albright said. For his part, Caden Albright noted that “My dad is happy, and I’m going to be happy if he is. He will be, even if the Mets lose.”
Each participant in the Team Championship receives two tickets, including one for themselves, to the Mets’ game against the Nationals that afternoon. All eight age-group winners, boys — and girls, competing with softballs — ages 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 — will be recognized in pre-game ceremonies, and the names of all competitors will be displayed on the scoreboard.
The scores of each age-group winner in Team Championships at each of the 30 major-league ballparks are compared, with the top three nationally in each age group for each gender earning all-expenses-paid trips to All-Star weekend in Miami for the national finals. Part of that experience is shagging fly balls in the outfield during the Home Run Derby on July 11.
In addition to the Albright brothers and Minnard, a number of other area youths have advanced to competition at major-league parks in past years. That list includes Cortland’s Mike Avery in 2001, Yale Brian Hughes in 2005 as well as 2009 (when he won the Boys’ 13-14 crown at Yankee Stadium), Justin Prentice in 2009 and 2010 (winning the Boys’ 13-14 title the latter year at Yankee Stadium), Chris Tillotson from Marathon in 2011, Jake Woods from Cortland in 2012 (second in Boys’ 13-14 at Citi Field) and Noah Barber from Cuyler in 2013 (second in boys’ 11-12 at Yankee Stadium) and 2014.