Pitch, Hit & Run Competitions
Pitch, Hit & Run Competitions
• Open to anyone who enters.
• All-around champions from each age and gender are eligible for this competition.
MLB Team Championship
• Held at all 30 MLB parks participants must place first in their sectional and be one of the top three scores in their age and gender group to qualify.
• The top three team championship winners in each age and gender receive an all-expense trip to the All-Star Game.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. In this case, it was a community that raised a softball player.
The girl in question is 11-year Bianca Balderaz, a Victoria resident who won a Pitch, Hit & Run competition over the weekend at Minute Maid Park.
To even qualify for the June 3 competition she had to win a similar competition in Victoria and Missouri City. Though she beat twin sister Andrea in the local competition, Bianca said having her family with her inspired her.
"Sometimes, it's a challenge, but it's fun. It sort of felt good and then I felt bad for her," Bianca said about beating her sister during the Victoria leg. "It was good because she got to go with me."
The top local qualifier advanced to one of eight sectional competitions. The three best sectional scores - which included participants from Mississippi, Louisiana and parts of Texas - took a the field shared by Jose Altuve, Wandy Rodriguez and the rest of the Astros.
"It was fun because my sisters were surprised," Bianca said. "My dad, when it was done, he went on the field and started dancing. My sister, she put some dirt in her pocket."
Off the tee, the first baseman slugged a softball to the fringe of the grass beyond second base. During the 160-foot running competition around third base her dad, Jimmy, said Bianca ran faster than he can ever recall.
"We were totally in shock," Jimmy Balderaz said of his second daughter's win. "The other little girl (from Mississippi) had a pitch on her. We thought 'Man, Bianca is going to have to make it up.' When she hit the ball it went toward the shortstop and it wasn't a good hit. .The third one, that sucker went off when she hit it. It landed in the grass."
The family even stuck around after the 7:45 a.m. competition to watch the fifth-place Astros beat division-leading Cincinnati 5-3. It was the first time in nearly a decade Bianca and her family watched a game.
Having four daughters - two sets of fraternal twins - within 22 months has a way of adjusting priorities. Balderaz and wife Michelle said they have navigated parenting with a large support system.
Jimmy's employer even sponsored his daughter's softball team, the Rays, and allowed him to take the time to coach the team, who finished in a three-way tie for first.
Whether its grandparents Lucy Balderaz and Cruz and Bertie Ortiz watching the girls on occasion, or getting instruction from colleagues Greg Halderman and Tim Smith about the finer points of softball, Jimmy said the support made Bianca's victory possible.
The family even stayed with a Houston-based cousin last weekend so they didn't have to wake up before 5 a.m. for Bianca to compete. The patriarch found it yet another blessing in a series of them.
Jimmy said his family is a pious one that tries to allow God to order their steps, which makes Bianca's entrance into the competition all the less coincidental.
Jimmy wanted his four daughters, Bianca, Andrea, Josie and Sarah to play on the same softball team this spring. The only way to ensure that could happen would be to coach them himself. It was at the initial coaches meeting that he was told of the local Pitch, Hit & Run competition at the end of April.
Had Balderaz not coached, and been told of the event, Bianca and her sister's likely wouldn't have participated.
"The little ones (Sara and Josie) have never went to a game before, so they had a blast," Jimmy said. "It was special because their sister won."
Bianca will find out at the end of the month whether she is one of the top three finishers nationally. If so, she would get an all-expense trip to the All-Star Game in Kansas City.
"It would be awesome," Bianca said of the possibility. "Then my family would get to go and we would have a blast."
In the interim Bianca will continue to hit a couple of her own.