Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Bloomingdale Little League scores another Pitch, Hit & Run contender

TAMPA — Greg Feldman answered the phone call from the Major League Baseball representative and sighed.

The subject was far from depressing. His 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, had won an invitation to the MLB Pitch, Hit & Run national finals, but the father of three's voice wasn't exactly giddy.

"(The rep) told me this is usually a happy phone call," he said, laughing. "I was just figuring out how we were going to have enough time to make it all work."

But having a busy summer schedule certainly is a good problem for the Feldmans as Olivia becomes the fourth Bloomingdale Little League softball player in the past six years to reach the national championships. Olivia will participate in the yearly competition during the festivities leading up to Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York City.

"I'm calling it the summer of ridiculousness," Feldman said with some amusement.

His two other daughters play travel ball for the Florida Fire and have tournaments up and down the eastern seaboard this summer. But despite the hectic summer, Feldman said he was thrilled to have his daughter join Raelynn Nichols, Annie Tarte and Sloan Hammons as representatives from Bloomingdale Little League.

Tarte won the national title in 2009 and Hammons captured it last year.

"(MLB) told me they have never heard of four kids coming from the same Little League park," he said. "It's pretty amazing. Olivia loves softball and she works very hard at it."

More than 600,000 kids ages 7 to 14 entered the Pitch, Hit & Run skills competition. Olivia qualified for the sectional championship by winning the pitching category at Bloomingdale Little League.

An assist goes to Eric Hammons, who loaned Olivia the device he constructed to simulate the pitching competition for his daughter.

"Actually the first two calls I made when I found out Olivia was going to New York was to Annie's dad and Sloan's dad," Feldman said. "We've all coached each others' kids, and there is a lot of camaraderie there."

Olivia won the overall sectional title for the 7-8 division at Bradenton's McKechnie Field and had to wait to find out if she was one of the top three scorers from the northern half of the state. (The Miami Marlins host the same competition for South Florida.)

"We weren't even there for the end in Bradenton because we had to get one of her sisters to a tournament," Feldman said.

But Olivia qualified and competed at Tropicana Field for the right to go to the national finals and represent the Tampa Bay Rays.

"To be honest, I was just happy to get a free ticket to the Rays game," Feldman said. "We never really thought any of this would happen."

Olivia again won her division but had to wait and see if she was one of the top three scores from across the United States. The family found out when it was announced on MLB Tonight.

"Everyone was screaming," Olivia said. "It was pretty exciting."

Olivia, who will enter the third grade at Nativity Catholic School in the fall and said math is her favorite subject, will compete for the national title on Monday before the Home Run Derby, where she'll also get a chance to snag some fly balls, in addition to a number of other activities the MLB has planned.

"I'm excited to go on the plane," said Olivia, who has never been to New York City. "It will be my first plane ride. And we are going to the Statue of Liberty."

Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

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