Stepping up to a famed plate

The Baltimore Sun

Hours before Major League Baseball's All-Stars compete in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, Jackie LaPointe of Ellicott City will participate in a competition of her own.

The 13-year-old will be in the 2008 Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run competition tomorrow at the stadium.

"Of course I'm excited," LaPointe said. "It will be cool to compete at Yankee Stadium."

LaPointe is the only player in the country this year to post a perfect six-for-six, otherwise known as hitting the target every time, in the Super Regional pitch portion of the competition. Representing the Baltimore Orioles, LaPointe will join 23 other finalists ages 8 to 14 in the competition.

LaPointe, a rising freshman at Howard High School, is one of three female finalists in her age group. She says she enjoys base running the most, even though she has always been a pitcher. She decided to participate because her 10 year-old brother was competing.

"I was kind of nervous at first," LaPointe said. "When I started doing well, it was fun."

The free competition with more than 600,000 participants nationwide is part of a program that celebrates skills of young baseball and softball players.

In order to qualify for the national finals, the players first compete in local and sectional competitions, which were held at Rockburn Branch and Ceder Lane Parks in Howard County this spring.

In addition to the pitching portion of the competition, officials time the players' base running and score their hitting by distance and accuracy.

"I coached her for a number of years," said Paul LaPointe, Jackie's father. "I'm very proud of her, and it has been a lot of fun to see her compete."

LaPointe, who started playing softball when she was 7, plays for the Patriots softball team in Ellicott City.

"It's the age where kids play every sport," she said. "I don't know why, but I liked softball."

Along with the other national finalists, Jackie will attend the All-Star game Tuesday.

"I've always enjoyed watching softball more than baseball," Jackie said. "It will still be a lot of fun to go to the game."

Off the field, LaPointe also enjoys swimming. She is a member of the Columbia Aquatics Association Clippers, a year-round swim team. LaPointe is also an honor roll student and received the Presidential Academic Excellence Award, which recognizes students who excel in the classroom.

LaPointe says she wants to pitch for Howard High School's softball team next spring.

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