Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play on a major league baseball field, getting to experience the feeling of rounding the bases and heading for home, ripping a ball into the outfield grass, or just playing catch?
Not one, but two young Gator girls, Sierra Landsrud of Greenbush and Sierra Westberg of Middle River, earned the right to do just that and represent Gator Nation at Target Field in Minneapolis– home of the Minnesota Twins–on a Sunday, June 24 morning, as part of the “Pitch, Hit, and Run” Minnesota Twins Team Championship. One of these girls would even win her age division down at Target Field.
To earn this opportunity, the girls first advanced from the local competition in Greenbush to the regional competition in Bemidji. To advance to the regional, one had to be crowned the All-Around Champion, or a champion in at least one of the three categories (pitching, hitting, or running) in their age group.
To become eligible for the chance to advance to Target Field, one had to finish as the All-Around Champion in their age group at the regional event. Both Gator girls would win their age groups– Landsrud in the 7/8 softball division and Westberg in the 11/12 softball division.
This didn’t automatically qualify them for a spot at Target Field. Their scores were then compared to other regional winners across the Minnesota Twins area, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Manitoba, Canada, and the top three scores in each age group earned the right to compete there.
The competition includes four different girls’ softball divisions (7/8, 9/10, 11/12, and 13/14) and four different boys’ baseball divisions (7/8, 9/10, 11/12, and 13/14). So, a total of 24 youth earned this right to compete at Target Field, two of which were Gators.
When both girls discovered they advanced to Target Field, they experienced some positive feelings.
Westberg had toured Target Field as part of her sixth grade class trip last May, but couldn’t step on the grass. During this visit, she and the other participants had the chance to play on the grass.
“It was exciting to go to the Twin Cities and at the Target Field,” Westberg said.
Westberg and Landsrud were also both excited to watch their first Twins game. As part of advancing to Target Field, the participants got to watch the Twins game later that same day. Landsrud enjoyed getting her face painted red and blue while at the game.
“I was excited because we got free tickets to (the) Twins game,” Landsrud said about finding out she advanced to Target Field.
“Yeah, because it (the purchase of the tickets) would come out of her checking account anyway,” Landsrud mother Jodi Wahl said.
No matter how the girls finished in the competition, just seeing them on this field was quite the experience for the parents.
“It was pretty emotional,” Wahl said. “Even them just being out there and competing was emotional, watching them do that.”
Landsrud would end up winning her age division, which brought another emotional moment.
“When they said third place… and then they said second and I’m like, ‘She just won.’ But yeah, the whole thing was just so exciting,” Wahl said.
By winning her age group, Landsrud would be entered in with all 30 Major League Baseball team champions in her age division and the top three scores would earn an all-expense paid trip to MLB All-Star Week at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. As part of this trip, participants would get to compete on the field and shag fly balls during the Home Run Derby. If Sierra were to finish in the top three, Wahl said they would go to D.C. for it.
Landsrud looked forward to this possible visit.
“I was so excited because I think I might make it to the next level… because then we could just stay with Auntie Tammy,” Lansrud said, referring to her mother’s sister who lives in D.C.
The top three finishers in each age group were announced on July 2. Landsrud didn’t make the top three, but did earn a special opportunity for winning her age division at Target Field.
As part of winning her age division, Landsrud not only earned a first-place plaque, but also the opportunity to hear her name and hometown announced as she was shown waving on the big scoreboard prior to the Twins game on June 24.
“I was a little nervous,” Landsrud said about being on the big screen.
Sierra Westberg would finish third in her division, also earning a plaque. She highlighted how much of an accomplishment it was for both her and Sierra Landsrud to make it to that point.
“I was really happy because we come from a small town and everybody else is (from) a different state, bigger cities,” Sierra Westberg said.
They showed how talent can come from anywhere and can take them places– in this case two girls from Gator Nation playing on the grass and dirt of the Minnesota Twins.
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