By Jean DePlacido
---- — Talia Smaller is only 10 years old, but she can already hit the ball over the fence at high school softball fields — and she does it frequently.
The Peabody resident, a fifth-grader at the McCarthy School, is one of three finalists in her age group who will compete in Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit and Run contest at Fenway Park this Saturday.
“Hitting is my strongest event,” said Smaller, who competes in the 9-10 age bracket and also plays basketball. “You have to hit off a tee and they measure how far the ball goes in a marked area. When you throw you have to hit a target from 35 feet, and we also get timed running from second base to home.”
Smaller won both the regionals in Billerica last month and sectionals at Andover two weeks ago. In order to be invited to Fenway for the finals, scores were tabulated from competitions held in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Only the top three in each age bracket advanced.
Similar events will take place in every major league ballpark, and the overall winners from Boston will have their times and distances compared to other winners from across the country. The top three in each age group will be invited to compete during MLB’s All-Star festivities in New York next month.
Smaller has been playing softball for three years. She is a first baseman and a first-year catcher for the Seacoast Breakers, an American Softball Association (ASA) U10 Junior Olympic team out of Hampton, N.H. In the New England qualifier two weeks ago, Smaller hit three home runs and had 15 RBI in five games to help her team advance to the nationals at Findale, Ohio, in August.
Next month she’ll begin her third year playing for Swampscott Blue Ice (U12), a summer travel team that has gone undefeated the past two years. She also plays in the Peabody Softball Majors for the Washington Huskies. Last year she played in 120 games, and will probably hit that mark again this year.
This is the first time Smaller has entered the MLB contest.
“I love to hit, but I’ll practice my throwing and running before going to Fenway. That’s going to be so exciting,” said Smaller. “I’m also looking forward to going to Nationals this summer.”
Smaller was able to hit the ball over the fence last year when she was 9, a rare feat at such a young age. She practices with her Breakers team twice a week and takes weekly hitting lessons from St. Mary’s of Lynn softball coach Colleen Newbury. Softball is a year-round activity for her.
“She is one of the few 10-year-olds that can hit it over the fence,” said her father Stuart. “Talia loves softball, and when we heard about the MLB event she wanted to do it.
“Softball keeps us busy because the Breakers play in five different states. Last year she was part of the U10 ASA Junior Olympics New Hampshire state champion Northeast Hurricanes from Salem (N.H.). Talia loves the game and is very good at it.”