Since 2010, the Des Plaines Park District has hosted a free Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run Competition, open to boys and girls ages 7 to 14.
Each year, dozens of ball players compete at the local level in three skills areas: Pitch, total pitches thrown within a "Strike Zone" target; Hit, a measure of distance and accuracy from a stationary tee; and Run, a timed sprint from second base, around third, and across home plate.
This year, for the first time, a Des Plaines Park District competitor, Maren Garnett, 12, advanced to the Team Championship Competition, held at Wrigley Field June 23, where she took third place in her age group.
Garnett's journey began at the April 28 Pitch, Hit & Run Competition held at West Park. Competitors were divided into four age divisions 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, and 13-14. Garnett, was the hitting champion in the girls 11/12 age group, and, along with the individual Pitch, Hit, and Run category boy and girl champions plus the over-all competition champion, advanced to the Sectional Competition May 19 in Poynor Park in St. Charles. More than 120 sectional competitions were held in Illinois and Indiana with only the top three scorers from each age and gender group advancing to the Team Championships at Wrigley Field.
"I was nervous, but unbelievably proud to have made it to Wrigley," Garnett said. "It was an amazing experience to meet and talk to the other girls in my division. I think it finally hit me as I rounded third, on my way home, 'I'm at Wrigley Field!'"
Garnett is an incoming seventh-grade student at Chippewa Middle School. She has played Des Plaines Girls Softball for the past three years, this year on Matula Plumbing's The Eliminators, under Coach Kurt Rusch in the senior division in sixth through eighth grade.
Garnett has pitched, played first base, third base, short stop and catcher. Her father was the first base coach for the team this season.
"My mom was a Little League All-Star player," Garnett said, "and my dad and I used to play baseball in our back yard with a plastic bat and ball when I was little, so I guess baseball runs in our family."
When asked how Coach Rusch reacted, Garnett said, "Well, he's a Sox fan … but he was very supportive and proud. The Eliminators took second place this year, and this is the best team I have ever played for. Coach makes sure we always have a good time and that we bond as a team."
Garnett will play Fall Ball in Mount Prospect, starting mid-August. The program is instructional in nature, with a focus on skills and fundamentals. At Chippewa Middle School, Garnett is in the drama club, plays flute in the band, sings in the choir, and is a member of the fishing club.
She is also an emerging watercolorist; her most recent painting: a portrait of a giraffe. Both her grandparents are artists and their work is hung salon-style in her home. It's clear, that both art and athleticism are in her blood.