By Caleb Potter / PHR National Finalist
Caleb Potter of Mentor, OH, is a 2010 Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run National Finalist. Caleb shared his Pitch, Hit & Run experiences with MLB.com.
July 11, 2010: My trip to California started in Orlando, Fla., instead of my home hometown, Mentor, Ohio. Why? Baseball! My team was playing in the Elite World Series at ESPN Wide World of Sports. It was hard leaving my team for this competition during our highlight tournament of the year, but I knew that they could play well without me. The first flight to Houston was in the morning and short, but I used almost all the time to catch up on my sleep. Once we landed in Houston, my dad and I met one of the 9-10 year old contestants, Storm, from Ontario. The PHR staff asked us to wear our Aquafina PHR t-shirts while traveling so we could pick other competitors out too! When we were boarding the airplane to get to Anaheim I also met Tyler Stephens, one of the 13-14 year old guys competing against me. We said our hellos and our good lucks and got on the plane. It was a long plane ride, but eventually we landed in Anaheim.
We got on the shuttle that PHR sent to pick us up and I met Alexis, 10 year old girl contestant from Florida. After dropping our stuff at the hotel, we had a little bit of time to hang out, so we went to the Futures Game -the "All-Star Game for the minor leaguers". The game was fun, the USA versus the World, and afterwards we headed back to the hotel for the Welcome Banquet held by PHR. I met some parents and the other competitor in my division, Mike DeCosta. Tyler and I ended up having three helpings a piece. Like a kid's dream we could have all that we could eat! After dinner they had a movie presentation showing past competitions and all of this year's National Finalists playing baseball or softball. After the movie we received bags full of cool stuff from the Angels, Aquafina and MLB.
July 12, 2010: We met in the lobby to leave for breakfast at the Hilton Anaheim, also called the official "MLB All-Star Brunch." We drove to the hotel to arrive to a feast for kings with tons of food. All of us ate till we could eat no more. It was almost too easy to forget that we had a competition in a few hours! During the breakfast we received souvenir bats, met some of the team mascots, and met some MLB legends such as Bobby Bonilla, Paul Molitor, and Bob Feller.
After breakfast we drove to Angel Stadium, where we were dropped off at a tunnel leading up to the Angels' field and were ushered to the actual Angels dugout. We were able to lean on the railings of the dugouts just looking and observing the field just like Torii Hunter and where all the great all-star players would soon be playing. We warmed up in left field enjoying standing in the spots that many other famous players stood.
First up was pitching, the event that has everybody nervous. Lucky for me I was in the older age group, and we had to wait for the girl divisions and the younger guys also. I ended up getting four out of six pitches. That gave me confidence going into the hit. As the other competitors were hitting, my friends and I sat and enjoyed watching the all-star players walking by into the locker room in the back of our dugout. When going up to hit I knew what I had to do to do well. I drove the first hit into the ground. Nerves! On the second I made an adjustment and it paid off--I hit a bomb! Once I had completed a fast time in the running, I had a good feeling that I had won.
The same day of the competition is the Home Run Derby. Before the Derby began we met players Josh Hamilton, Marlon Byrd, and Matt Capps, getting their autographs and group pictures. Every kid's dream is to shag balls in the Home Run Derby. We had to go through shifts with the other group, going out on the field. When we are on the field my competitor friends Mike, Tyler, and I were having a blast. When not on the field we still had a chance to get balls because we were waiting in the bullpens, and we caught a ton just by sitting there.
July 13, 2010: Tuesday morning we left to go to All-Star Fan Fest, held in the Anaheim Convention Center. They had events for baseball like hitting balls in a cage, timing yourself on stealing a base, and getting autographs from MLB legends. After the event we headed back to the hotel and had a final group picture and awards ceremony. During the ceremony we received more autographed items. I also received the Sportsmanship Award from PHR Staff and they gave me an American League All-Star Game jersey. They said that I cheered on all the competitors and took time to care for them whatever their age. I just had fun meeting everyone, including the 7-8 year old girls. "Hey Girls!" And yes, I did win and got this huge trophy with a jumbo baseball on top!
Afterwards, Dad and I had time to ourselves enjoying such a great experience before walking to the All-Star Game. Tyler and I went to the All-Star batting practice with our dads. In our seats we enjoyed opening ceremonies and the game. At the 7th inning stretch my dad and I decided to walk around the park to enjoy the full experience. We had never been to Angel Stadium before, and it was sweet to walk around the entire stadium. Before we left I said goodbye to everybody and got final pictures with the younger girls (my new sisters!) and gave hugs to everybody else.
July 14, 2010: Final day but an early one! We woke up at 3:30AM to get on our shuttle back to the airport. I said goodbye to Mike DeCosta and left with Tyler to the airport for our connecting flight. On the flight back to Orlando a bunch of teenage girls saw my trophy and asked if I was famous and kept on asking about what the trophy was about. Sweet!
Finally, I loved the memories and experiences and will never forget them. The PHR national competition is a very special opportunity that is so worth any effort that you might put into it. Practice off a tee. Place a rope out from the tee to 300'. Tape a strike zone rectangle on a wall and pitch to it. And learn to round the bases. You too can make your mark in the PHR competition!
Also I would like to thank the whole PHR staff for their incredible dedication and hard work.
May 4, 2010: It was a typical busy Tuesday after school in May when I competed in the Local round of the Pitch Hit and Run in my hometown of Mentor, Ohio. I had a game that night too, so we were rushed getting out the door for the competition because I had to be at the field for the game by 5pm. I went with my two brothers and my sister. It was cool because we learned the following week that all four of us made it to the Sectional Round. My twelve year old brother Micah made it in hitting. Noah who is 9 made it in pitching, and Emma who is 7 made it in running. I was the all around champion that day. I hit the target on 5 pitches, ran well, but only hit a 220' hit. Finally, we found out that my numbers were good enough to advance!
May 23, 2010: We went to the Sectional together as a family. All four of us competed. Micah just missed the medals. I felt bad for him because he usually pitches much better, but this time he didn't. Noah and Emma competed well, but unfortunately did not win. That day in North Ridgeville, Ohio I hit the target 5 times, ran really well, and hit the ball 305 feet with deductions. It was funny because there was a fence at 250 feet and Micah and I hit it over the fence so they had to jump the fence to measure. When they announced that I won and was going to Progressive Field for the Team Championship, I knew I was just one more step away from my goal to go to the National Finals!
I worked with my dad and brothers a lot to get ready for the Team Championship. We used the big field behind our house to get ready. Every day I would go out and practice pitching and hitting. Two years ago I was in the NFL Punt Pass and Kick Finals in Indianapolis. Since then it has also been a goal to make the Finals in the Pitch Hit and Run. The hard work is worth it! The competitions are great because they make me work on my fundamentals and that makes me a better all around player too.
June 13, 2010: The day of the Cleveland Indians Team Championship. We had to be at Progressive Field by 8 am. Since it was early my dad woke me up to take me to the field. It was hot for the morning, but it was nice. After they gathered the families together for instructions we headed to the field to compete. We warmed up with other competitors then all stood waiting to pitch. Last year I missed the National finals by one pitch (60 points, I found out later by a PHR blog!), and that bummed me out. I knew I had to at least get four pitches to have a chance. If I hit the target on the first pitch, then I get in a groove and I would be more confident. Well, I hit the target on the first pitch - Awesome! I ended up hitting the second and third too. I missed four and five but knew I had to hit the sixth to have a shot at the nationals. I hit it and was totally relieved.
My hit was next. I knew I needed to be better than last year and better than the regional hit of 305. I love hitting, so I'm not as nervous as I am with pitching. I try to get a good swing on the first pitch so I can make adjustments for my second swing and have it be my best hit. That way I don't need to worry about my third swing. Well, it worked. My first swing was decent but a little too much to the right. I adjusted my swing and the second hit was great. I hit the ball on a line drive and it landed two feet from the tape. My hit was 313 but 311 with deductions. So, on my third swing I tried to let it all go and I didn't think about my mechanics so it ended up driving into the ground past second base.
At this point I knew I had a chance with a good run. I was wired for the run. God let me run very fast, but my dad said I pulled up on the last two strides. I knew I shouldn't do that but I guess I did. He showed me on the video tape, so I know not to do it again. Overall, I felt confident about my outing at the team championship.
Well, now comes the waiting game. I was nervous that I did not do well enough to make it to Anaheim. Every Monday after weekend team competitions I would ask to see if any calls had come in. The PHR office calls people who did not make Nationals each Monday if their score is already below the top three. I was nervous waiting for over two weeks to find out. I hoped I would not hear from anybody on Mondays. So, no calls came in for the next two Mondays! There were 5 teams yet to compete on June 26, the last weekend, and I knew I was in the top 3 still but didn't know what rank--first, second, or third.
June 27, 2010: We had to leave for the Buffalo Bills Jim Kelly Football Camp at 6am. We hoped to get a call of good news that day. We were playing our first 7 on 7 flag football game in Ralph Wilson Stadium about 11 am. All of the sudden my coach pulled me out of the game and said, "Caleb come out, you have phone call you need to take." At first I thought it was my mom or one of my relatives calling to see how the camp was going. Then I heard a voice I didn't recognize, and I thought "What's going on?!" The lady on the phone said, "How's football camp going? I am calling to tell you 'Congratulations!' because you have qualified for the National Finalss of the Aquafina MLB Pitch, Hit & Run competition!" I was so excited and tired at the same time because I was playing football, but I thought it was cool to get the call while I was playing on an NFL field.
So, I guess I'm on my way to Anaheim! The hard work and challenge to myself paid off. I actually have to play in the Elite World Series at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Disney World starting July 10th. So, I will start the tournament, then fly to Anaheim to compete. Then we will head back to Disney to finish the tournament with my team - the Beaver Valley Red from Western Pennsylvania. Cool!
I can't wait to compete, to meet new friends, and to hopefully meet some MLB players while I'm there. This is something I've wanted to do for seven years and now it is here!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.