NEW YORK -- For the parents of Sunday's Pitch, Hit & Run finalists at Citi Field, Father's Day has a bit of extra substance.
Even before the competition was scheduled to begin at the Mets' ballpark at 7:15 a.m., parents were tossing balls with their children in the parking lot or watch them swing bats -- real or imaginary -- at universally imaginary pitches as they prepared for their chance to take the field in a Major League stadium.
"This is a very special day, obviously, for the dads to come out," said Abby Lane, a coordinator from Pitch, Hit & Run. "All 24 kids receive tickets to the game this afternoon, so a lot of them are bringing their dads back to the game."
It was New York's turn to host its iteration of the Pitch, Hit & Run competition, presented by Scotts, on Sunday morning. All 30 Major League ballparks host a regional championship that determines winners from four age groups -- ages 7 and 8, 9 and 10, 11 and 12 and 13 and 14 -- for both boys and girls. The winners from across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut vied to become the next Eric Hosmer or Chris Parmelee -- both big league alumni of the program -- and are eligible to return to Citi Field for the national competition on July 15 before the Home Run Derby as part of All-Star Weekend.
The 24 finalists will be announced on June 30 on MLB Network.
Even scanning the parking lot, the excitement was clear as eager children warmed up to impress in an MLB stadium. When they finally walked into the stadium, the children's excitement began to bubble over. One contestant put it into words, simply as a child could, whispering, "This is so exciting," to a friend as they entered the stadium. Others discussed which New York team they preferred -- one made it clear that he's not a fan of the Yankees -- and kept focused on the upcoming competition.
It's a fun event at its heart, but there still is a level of competitiveness to it that will give 24 children across the country an opportunity of their own to step onto the Citi Field grass in July.
"Today was a great competition," Lane said. "We also have good kids from the Mets, so hopefully we'll get a national finalist from here."
Torres on hand to give Mets' bullpen a boost
NEW YORK -- Carlos Torres tried to play the big league card when he showed up minutes late for his Saturday night flight to New York, pleading with an airline attendant to let him on the plane. Apparently, she was not impressed, forcing Torres to change his direct flight from Las Vegas to a one-stop itinerary through Atlanta -- "an adventure," as Torres called it.
Regardless, Torres is in the big leagues now. He arrived at Citi Field around 9 a.m. ET Sunday and pitched two innings of one-hit ball in the Mets' 4-3 win over the Cubs, part of four scoreless innings from New York's bullpen. Torres went 6-3 with a 3.89 ERA in 12 starts for hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas. His last two appearances with the 51s were complete games, though he had seven days off after his last outing.
"The bullpen is a huge factor in every game," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "With what Carlos went through all night long, he said he felt fine. It'd been a while since he pitched."
Torres said his stuff wasn't as sharp as he'd like it to be -- understandable considering his 24 hours -- but he provided a glimpse into what he brings to New York.
He got two quick outs and worked around a two-out single for a quick first inning of work. He struck out third baseman Luis Valbuena to start of the seventh and induced two more groundouts for a smooth 26-pitch day. After the game, he said he would've been fine to keep going.
"To tell you the truth, it was probably a little better," Torres said of the fact that he had a hectic day. "It kept me a little down."
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Mets designated starting pitcher Collin McHugh for assignment, risking losing him to another team. And to clear space for Torres in New York, the Mets optioned Greg Burke, who had allowed just one earned run over the past five-plus weeks. Torres had an "out" clause in his contract and he would've been able to sign elsewhere had the Mets not promoted him.
"We had to find a spot, and a lot of times it comes down to options," Collins said. "I hate to admit it, but there are guys you can move and there are guys you can't."
Believe it or not, Torres had a similar day last season with the Rockies. In late May, he was sent down and called back up in the same day.
He didn't have to pitch that time, though. In New York, he wasted no time.
"You got to get in there sooner or later," Torres said, "so you might as well make it Day 1."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.