By David Fong
TROY — Hayden Frey dreams of one day playing for his beloved Cincinnati Reds.
“I want to pitch for the Reds some day,” said Frey, who will enter the third grade at Concord Elementary School this fall.
Maybe that’s why he’s getting the lay of the land at Great American Ballpark now.
Frey, the son of Ryan and Rebecca Frey, recently competed in Major League Baseball’s Hit, Pitch and Run Competition — a skills competition similar to the NFL’s Punt, Pass and Kick competition — at the Reds’ stadium, winning his age group for the Cincinnati region and finishing 17th nationally among 7-8 year olds.
“It was fun,” Frey said of competing in the same ballpark his heroes on the Reds call home.
That Frey is a natural on the diamond should come as little surprise. His father was a stellar second baseman at Troy High School who went on to play at the University of Findlay, while his grandfather Tony coached youth baseball in Troy for decades.
Hayden got the idea to enter the contest while watching the Reds play the Cubs on ESPN alongside his father.
“We were just watching the game and this commercial came on for the contest,” Ryan Frey said. “I looked it up and it sounded like a pretty good deal. So I found a local competition that was being held at Howell Field in Dayton.”
During the local competition, Frey had to throw six pitches at a “strike zone” from 45 feet away, hit three balls off a tee and was timed in a 150-foot run. When his point totals for those three events were added up, Frey had won the local competition.
He then advanced to the sectional competition in Eaton. He again won his age group, but had to wait to see how his scores matched up against other sectional scores from southern Ohio, all of Kentucky and southern Indiana. The top three scorers in each age group from that cluster of sectional moved on to compete at Great American Ballpark.
Frey was in the top three, giving him the opportunity to compete in front of family and friends and Great American Ballpark. Before the competition — which took place the morning before a Reds’ game against the Marlins — Frey was given a tour of the Reds’ lockerroom, allowed to run out on the field and had his picture put on the stadium’s JumboTron.
“It was neat,” he said of the overall experience. “It was fun. I felt like I was going to win.”
He did just that, placing tops among the three competitors in his age group. The top three scorers from each of the 30 MLB team winners moved on to compete at the MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati. Frey missed out on that opportunity — but considering he beat out tens of thousands of other pint-sized players by placing 17th nationally — he was happy with his performance, as was his family.
“Everyone told me they were really proud of me,” he said.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong