NEW YORK -- For the parents of Sunday's Pitch, Hit & Run finalists at Citi Field, Father's Day has a bit of extra substance.
Even before the competition was scheduled to begin at the Mets' ballpark at 7:15 a.m., parents were tossing balls with their children in the parking lot or watch them swing bats -- real or imaginary -- at universally imaginary pitches as they prepared for their chance to take the field in a Major League stadium.
"This is a very special day, obviously, for the dads to come out," said Abby Lane, a coordinator from Pitch, Hit & Run. "All 24 kids receive tickets to the game this afternoon, so a lot of them are bringing their dads back to the game."
It was New York's turn to host its iteration of the Pitch, Hit & Run competition, presented by Scotts, on Sunday morning. All 30 Major League ballparks host a regional championship that determines winners from four age groups -- ages 7 and 8, 9 and 10, 11 and 12 and 13 and 14 -- for both boys and girls. The winners from across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut vied to become the next Eric Hosmer or Chris Parmelee -- both big league alumni of the program -- and are eligible to return to Citi Field for the national competition on July 15 before the Home Run Derby as part of All-Star Weekend.
The 24 finalists will be announced on June 30 on MLB Network.
Even scanning the parking lot, the excitement was clear as eager children warmed up to impress in an MLB stadium. When they finally walked into the stadium, the children's excitement began to bubble over. One contestant put it into words, simply as a child could, whispering, "This is so exciting," to a friend as they entered the stadium. Others discussed which New York team they preferred -- one made it clear that he's not a fan of the Yankees -- and kept focused on the upcoming competition.
It's a fun event at its heart, but there still is a level of competitiveness to it that will give 24 children across the country an opportunity of their own to step onto the Citi Field grass in July.
"Today was a great competition," Lane said. "We also have good kids from the Mets, so hopefully we'll get a national finalist from here."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.