Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 18
All Star materialLocal baseball talent Jaden Lyburtus is headed to New York for a major (league) competition
BY KRISTINA SEWELL
This is looking like the summer of a lifetime for young baseball player Jaden Lyburtus.
Just 11-1/2 years old, Lyburtus is preparing to represent the Central Coast in the Big Apple as one of three national finalists—for his age group—in the annual Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit, and Run competition.
A resident of Guadalupe, this soon-to-be eighth grader is one of just 24 kids selected to move on to this competition, scheduled for July 15. The final event will be held at Citi Field in New York, prior to the Gatorade All-Star workout day.
Tall, athletic, and quiet, Lyburtus got involved in the competition at a local level. After winning here, Lyburtus took the sectionals in San Luis Obispo and went on to win the regional competition at Dodger Stadium.
More than 600,000 youth participated in 4,000 competitions in which the young athletes moved through four levels of play. At each competition, they had the chance to pitch, run the base paths, and hit a certain number of balls; players were scored on a point system. From ages 7 to 14, the top three players nationwide were chosen to move on to the finals. Thirty competitions were held at each MLB stadium, and winners from each division got to advance.
“All of my teammates competed, it was a fun competition—everyone loves the hitting part,” he said. “Approaching the stadium was nerve-wracking.”
Lyburtus won the running portion at the sectionals competition and won the all-around at the San Luis Obispo portion. For this small-town kid, going to New York is also a first.
“The farthest I’ve been is Ohio,” he said.
The young star will leave for the Empire State on July 13 before competing on July 15. After the Nationals competition, players will have the chance to shag balls for the home run derby. Lyburtus confessed he’s a New York Yankees fan as well.
He said hitting was the best part, and something at which he’s gotten really good. Playing for the 12U Southside Little League All-Star team, Lyburtus stood out with his pitching and powerful hitting; he hit three home runs in the first regular season game, only to follow it up with another three home runs in the second game.
When he’s out on the field, Lyburtus said he’s quiet; he likes to have fun, but doesn’t like to have a big ego. If he isn’t on the field, he likes to spend time with his friends from Fesler Junior High School. He said he tried playing basketball for his school last year, but baseball is his favorite sport right now.
Southside Little League coach Eddie Garcia has been coaching Lyburtus for five years.
“He is an excellent player and a great kid,” Garcia said. “He does whatever he is asked.”
Garcia said Lyburtus has improved tremendously from last year, building on his natural athletic ability.
“He is so strong and so fast,” Garcia noted. “At the San Luis competition, he was hitting farther than most 14-year-olds.”
Garcia added that Lyburtus has been tearing it up so far this All-Star season, already racking up six home runs—and he’s the youngest player on his team. While Lyburtus pitched last season, the coaching staff moved him to center field this year. Garcia said it was a “no-brainer” to put him there because he covers a lot of outfield ground and has a strong arm.
“Other teams are starting to pitch around him more, but even if they walk him, there is a good chance he will score,” Garcia said.
Coach Garcia thinks that since Lyburtus has made it this far, he’ll do very well in the competition.
Lyburtus is nervous about representing his hometown, as well as the legacy of baseball in his family. Jaden’s grandfather, Joe Bendele Jr., played on the same fields with his 1969 All-Star team.
But at the end of the day, while he’s excited for this unique opportunity to stand with the big boys, Lyburtus is still a kid who loves to play baseball.
“I didn’t even know I’d make it this far,” he said. “But my goal is to go out and have fun.”
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell wants to try pizza in New York. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.