Youngster Advances To National Finals

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A strong arm, sharp batting eye and blazing speed earned 10-year-old Blake Cannon a first-place finish at the Pepsi Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit and Run Team Championship June 12 at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix.

With the state victory, Cannon -- who will be a sixth-grader at Rim Country Middle School this fall -- is eligible to advance to the National Finals at the 2005 All-Star Game in Detroit, Mich.

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Blake Cannon

The top four competitors in each age division from around the nation will compete for the national championships during All-Star week.

"We were told we would be notified by about June 26 if Blake will go to the nationals," Cannon's mother, Michelle, said.

Cannon qualified for the state championships --eld just prior to the Arizona Diamondbacks' game against the Kansas City Royals --y winning all-around championships at both the Payson and the sectional age division finals in Flagstaff.

"It was such a great experience for them," she said. "They were out there on a professional baseball field and in (Diamondback) uniforms. Then their names were announced (over the PA system). It was thrilling."

Weston Gibson also represented Payson, finishing in third place. Gibson entered the state championships as both the local and sectional 11 to 12 years age-group champion.

The event is the official skills competition of Major League Baseball. The grassroots program is in its ninth year of existence and is designed to provide youth across North America with an integrated competition that recognizes individual excellence in core baseball skills.

Children compete in four age groups: 7/8, 9/10, 11/12 and 13/14.

The format for all age groups includes:

Pitching --The participant is tested throwing strikes to a designated "Strike Zone" target.

Hitting -- Allows the youngster to hit a ball off a stationary tee for distance and accuracy.

Running --he youngster is timed, starting from second base, touching third and then home.

Golf a favorite, too

For Cannon, the pitch, hit and run crown is another athletic achievement to go along with his exceptional golf play as of late. In the past few months, he has molded himself into an up-and-coming member of the Junior Golf Association of Arizona playing circuit.

Competing in the 10-years-and-under division last spring at the JGAA Tucson Spring Classic, Cannon finished third.

A week prior to the Tucson showdown, Cannon won the JGAA Desert Mashie championships at the Phoenix Encanto Golf Course. On the par 30 nine-hole course, Cannon shot a 32 in the first round and a 31 in the second.

Cannon burst on the state golf scene as an 8-year-old when he won first place at the 2003 Lone Tree Golf Classic in Chandler.

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