Little League players will swing for the fences in HR derby

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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Little League is about to stage its own version of Major League Baseball's home run derby.

The Little League Home Run Derby championship will take place at Bowman Field, site of the Little League Classic — the MLB game played during the tournament — on Saturday afternoon, and will air on ESPN prior to the start of Sunday night's broadcast of the Cubs-Pirates matchup. T-Mobile is sponsoring the event.

Little League probably couldn't have picked a better time for a home run derby, which will feature both baseball and softball players.

The MLB version created some serious buzz as Toronto Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson took turns launching baseballs into the Cleveland sky earlier this summer. Casual sports fans were interested and it showed, as viewership was up 5% for the derby from the previous year.

Now Little League is joining in.

"More than just a competition, the T-Mobile Little League Home Run Derby provides our local Little Leaguers with additional opportunities to participate in the game of baseball and softball and earn a trip to Williamsport to experience the magic of the
Little League Baseball World Series environment," said Kevin Fountain, a spokesman for Little League International.

The event also comes as concern over youth sports participation in the United States remains high, and any boost in excitement helps. The Colorado-based Aspen Institute recently released a survey on youth sports which said that children play organized baseball for a little over three years on average and stop at age 10, which is the low end of Little League.

A lot of that has to do with the costs associated with playing youth sports. The average family spending on youth baseball was $659.96, with the high end at about $14,500, the report said.

"Along with the additional opportunities (the home run derby) presents to the Little Leaguers participating in the event, the incredible support from T-Mobile with their commitment to donate at least $1 million to our program will allow our program to be more accessible for children in communities everywhere," Fountain said.

The eight baseball participants in the home run derby will be: Cash Compliment (Ashland American Little League in Ashland, Kentucky), Nate Hawton-Henley (Fairfax Little League in Oakton, Virginia), Kai LaChance (Plymouth Little League in Plymouth, Massachusetts), Everest Ouellette (East Lake Little League in Palm Harbor, Florida), Val Regalado (Smithville Little League in Texas), Ryder Young (Del Mar Little League in California), Brady Ebel (Vineyard Little League in California) and Chris Hemphill (Paseo Verde Little League in Nevada).

The eight softball participants will be: Michelle Britt (Tinton Falls Little League in Tinton Falls, New Jersey), Keira Cook (East Greenbush Little League, Castleton on Hudson, New York), Ciana Gaines (Elmer Little League in Elmer, New Jersey), Jeylene Joza (Washington Park Little League in Jersey City, New Jersey), Aubrey Clark (Johnston Little League in Iowa), Angelee Calderon (Ponytail Little League in Arizona), Kendall Becker (North Kitsap National Little League in Washington) and Valarie Scott (Flowing Wells Continental Little League in Arizona).

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