VALRICO — Summer is typically the time families head out on vacation.
For the Hammons family, this year's atypical trip will be one to remember.
Sloan Hammons and her family will be heading to Missouri next month so that the local Little Leaguer can compete in the softball portion of Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit and Run finals held the night before the MLB All-Star Game at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.
Sloan is one of three national finalists in the 11- to 12-year-old division. The 12-year-old Mulrennan Middle Schooler plays Major All-Stars at Bloomingdale Little League and travel ball for the Florida Fire.
"The only thing we had planned for vacation before this was playing All-Stars," Sloan said.
She will compete for the national title July 9 prior to the MLB Home Run Derby. Sloan will then shag balls in the outfield during the derby before taking in Tuesday's midsummer classic from the stands.
"I've had to change my swing a little," said Sloan, who will be hitting off a tee in the competition. "It's more of an uppercut. Normally I swing down and through the ball off a pitcher."
All 30 MLB clubs host a Pitch, Hit and Run competition during the summer. There is one winner in each age division for boys and girls, but only the top three scorers out of the 30 MLB cities in each age group advance to the national finals. To get there, Sloan won a local competition at Bloomingdale Little League and a sectional in Bartow before moving on to Tropicana Field.
"I wasn't really too nervous at Tropicana Field because I had a bunch of my friends cheering me on when I did something good," Sloan said. "But I'm sure I'll be nervous out in Kansas City because so many people will be watching."
Dad Eric Hammons said waiting to find out if Sloan's score was good enough for top three in her age bracket nationally was tough.
"We knew she put up a good score but there were other competitions across the country to be completed, and we had to wait to hear from (MLB)," he said. "They said if we didn't hear from them it was a good thing. So we were dreading any phone call."
The family finally got the news that Hammons had qualified live on the MLB Network on Sunday.
"I let out a quick scream," Sloan said.
But Eric Hammons said he and his wife were "way more excited" than their daughter.
"My wife and I were sitting in the living room waiting to find out if she had made it," he said. "We saw it on TV and told her and she was like, 'Oh, cool,' and went back in her room to read."
Sloan is the latest in a string of Florida Fire players who have qualified for the Pitch, Hit and Run finals. Raelynn Nichols (2008) and Annie Tarte (2009 national champion) preceded her in reaching the All-Star Game.
"I am friends with Annie so she has talked about it, and I think it's helped me to prepare," Sloan said.
MLB picks up the tab for Hammons and one parent, but the entire family, including mom, Shelley, and brother, Lance, will be cheering her on and enjoying the All-Star Game festivities.
"It's definitely going to be a great family vacation," Eric Hammons said. "This is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so everyone is excited."
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.