By David Krueger Herald Writer
Cody LaCoursiere has watched the Seattle Mariners play at Safeco Field countless times.
Sunday afternoon, it will be his turn.
LaCoursiere is a finalist in the Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit and Run competition that allows players to test their skills in the three categories. If LaCoursiere wins his MLB team championship on Sunday — and finishes with one of the top three scores in his 13 and 14-year old age group nationally — he gets an all-expenses paid trip to the national championship held All-Star Weekend at Target Field in Minneapolis.
“It’s huge. I wouldn’t have dreamt of anything like this before,” LaCoursiere said. “Now that I’m going I’m thinking, ‘Wow this is reality!’”
The Lake Stevens Little Leaguer started his journey winning a local competition in late April. That qualified LaCoursiere, 14, for a sectional competition a week later in Bothell that featured players from Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Alberta and British Columbia.
LaCoursiere scored 1,246 points, 356 points ahead of the second-place finisher (890). His score qualified him for the MLB team championship on Father’s Day, which will take place after the Seattle Mariners’ game against the Texas Rangers that’s scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m.
“He felt really confident,” said Cody’s father, Chad LaCoursiere. “He had the overall highest score in the sectional at Bothell. He beat the second place competitor by almost 400 points. He did great.”
The Pitch, Hit and Run competition is sponsored by Major League Baseball, and scores players’ abilities in the three categories. In the pitching event, a standard strike zone is mounted and the pitcher has to throw it in the strike zone from 45 feet. Each player gets six pitches, with each one capable of earning a maximum 75 points.
The hitting component of the competition involves each player getting three swings off a tee, with the goal to hit the ball straight to dead center field. The point total is based on both distance from the tee and accuracy. Wherever the hit goes, it is measured over to the line in center field with that subtracted from its overall distance.
Finally, the running section has the players run from second base to home, with points awarded based on how fast the athletes’ time is.
No sliding is allowed and each athlete gets one chance to complete the run.
“You get one shot to run from second to home,” Chad LaCoursiere said. “You just hope you don’t slip.”
Cody LaCoursiere was a perfect 6-for-6 pitching at his sectional, but still doesn’t think that’s his strongest leg of the event.
“I think my specialty would be running the bases,” LaCoursiere said. “I know I’m pretty fast. But if I had to choose a second it would be hitting.”
Two current Major Leaguers, the Minnesota Twins’ Chris Parmelee and Kansas City Royals infielder Eric Hosmer, are former Pitch, Hit and Run national finalists.
LaCoursiere, an eighth grader at Cavelero Mid High School in Lake Stevens, practices as often as he can in his yard. He makes sure to point out that “homework comes first,” but quickly adds that “sports is a close second.”
He’s excited to go down and play on the same field as the Mariners, and hopes he can join a couple of them in Minneapolis in mid-July. The Pitch, Hit and Run finalists get to shag fly balls for the MLB Home Run Derby on July 14, before attending the All-Star game the next day.
“It’s super cool. Who wouldn’t want to go down on the field to compete?” LaCoursiere said. “Here’s my chance to go down there and show what I’ve got. … It’s a mix of being nervous and excited. I’m nervous because there will be people there and it’s kind of hard to focus. And excited because I get to be one of the top three (finalists). Not very many people are up there.”
His family will be there on Sunday, cheering him on as he tries to get to All-Star Weekend in Minneapolis.
“If you look at it, 600,000 kids compete, in over 4,000 local events across the country and in Canada,” Chad LaCoursiere said. “It starts out with a lot of kids and finishes with a total of 24 kids at All-Star Week. … We’re just really excited for him. He’s always been talented. He’s just a great kid. We couldn’t be any more proud of him.”