VALRICO — Eleven-year-old Annie Tarte can pitch, hit and run better than any other girl her age in the nation.
Annie won Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run competition Monday afternoon in her division, 11- and 12-year-old softball players. The winners were announced during Monday's Home Run Derby as part of the All-Star Game festivities at Busch Stadium.
Her father, Steve Tarte, said it was pretty awesome to watch his daughter compete at the St. Louis Cardinals' stadium.
"I'm a pretty proud father," he said.
She was up against two other girls in her division, one from Texas and another from Arizona.
"I'm very happy," Annie said. "I was nervous about it, but I could do it."
When she took the field, 46,000-seat Busch Stadium had, at most, 100 people in the stands. When the announcement came that she had won, the venue was packed for the Home Run Derby.
Annie said she didn't care whether she won, and was grateful just to make it that far.
"I already got to go to the All-Star Game," she said.
Annie earned her trip to St. Louis by being one of three finalists in the softball division for 11- and 12-year-old girls. To become a finalist, she beat all the local competition at Bloomingdale Little League and repeated her success at the super regional in Orlando.
That wasn't Annie's first trip to a regional competition. Last year, the player for the Florida Fire — a local youth softball club from the Bloomingdale Little League — reached the super regional.
By finishing in the top three among the 10 super regional winners, Annie traveled with her family to St. Louis for the competition. She got to catch stray balls during the Home Run Derby, watch the All-Star Game and trek to the top of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.
"You could see so much," she said. "You could see Busch Stadium."
The future Williams Middle School International Baccalaureate student represents more than her hometown — she's officially representing the Tampa Bay Rays, her father said.
"They've got one national championship out of her," he said.
Annie thinks it's interesting to represent the Rays, though she's a Cubs fan.
"I've actually never been to a Rays game," she said. "I like them, but I like the Cubs more."
Amy Mariani can be reached at (813) 226-3374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.