Pitch, hit and run contest Saturday at VHS

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 21, 2008

VIDALIA — Area youths will have the chance to have some fun and play for an opportunity to visit a Major League Baseball park Saturday morning at the Vidalia High School baseball field.

The Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit and Run competition will take place at that time, and event organizer Mike Bowlin said it’s a fun, family-friendly activity for kids ages 7-14.

“I was looking for something for area kids to do without it costing them anything,” Bowlin said. “I found this (contest) on the Internet and thought it would be a good thing for the area kids to get involved it.”

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The competition at Vidalia High is one of many local competitions that will take place across the country. The winner will advance to the sectionals, which will take place in Baton Rouge.

The winner of that will advance to the regional competition at the closest Major League park, most likely Houston.

The national finals take place at the 2008 MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

One local man who knows exactly what the experience is like is Whest Shirley.

Shirley won both the local and sectional competition when he was 12-years-old in 1978.

He advanced to the regional competition, which was at the Astrodome in Houston, home of the Houston Astros.

“I got to meet Nolan Ryan, Phil Neikro, Jose Cruz, all the old Astros players,” Shirley said. “I got to compete on the field and would up second to a guy from Arizona.”

Shirley said it was a great experience getting to meet some of his baseball heroes.

“Those are the people that we all idolized growing up,” he said. “We stayed in the same hotel as the team and six starters ate with us at the pre-game meal.”

Shirley will never forget the game, not only because of meeting the players, but also because it was one of the longest games in Astros history.

The Chicago Cubs would up defeating the Astros in 18 innings, with legendary pitcher Bruce Sutter picking up the win for the Cubbies.

“It created a lot of good memories for me,” Shirley said. “I never expected to get a plane ride to Houston when I showed up at the baseball field in Vidalia that Saturday morning.”

Even if most kids won’t have the experience Shirley did, Bowlin said it would still be fun for both girls and boys.

“There is no difference in the boys and the girls, they all compete against each other,” Bowlin said. “We’re hoping to have about 40-50 kids sign up and participate. It’s a good family activity for everyone.”