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A big league experience for 9-year-old

Nick Biddison with his father, Alan, and the Washington Nationals’ mascot, Screech.
For most nine-year-olds, playing in a state championship baseball game would be plenty of excitement for one summer.

But Nick Biddison topped off his state finals adventure by traveling to Anaheim, Calif., and competing in the nationals of another baseball competition, the Aquafina Pitch, Hit and Run.

His Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association team finished in the runner-up position at the state tournament and advanced to regionals, while Nick finished third for his age group in the national event.

What’s more, he did it all in the space of one weekend.

The whirlwind weekend got its start back in April, when Nick took part in the local Pitch, Hit and Run event sponsored by Henrico County Parks and Recreation at RF&P Park.

By winning the hitting portion of the competition, Nick qualified for the sectional event, which he won overall for his age group. Then, in early June, he traveled to Washington to compete in Nationals Stadium.

Among his more vivid memories of that day, recalls Nick’s father, Alan Biddison, Jr., was “getting to the field almost two hours early and driving to the top of the parking deck, where we set up a catch net so Nick could practice his hitting and pitching before going in to compete.”

Nick ended up the overall winner for his age group, and was recognized on the field before the Nationals game.  But after the win, Nick and his family had to bide their time until all 30 major league ballparks completed their contests. Only the top three finishers for each age group advanced to the national finals. “The waiting game began,” says Alan Biddison. “It made me crazy.” 

When the call came that Nick had qualified for national competition, says his father, “We were thrilled – but also concerned.” 

Nick’s team was slated to play in the state tournament in Herndon July 8 through July 10.  In the event of rain delays, they would have to choose between traveling to California, and playing for the state championship.

But in the end – despite a rain delay – the championship was played as scheduled on July 10.

“He arrived home from Herndon at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night,” Alan recalls, “and left for California at 3:30 Sunday morning.” 

Royal Treatment
Although tiring, the trip to California for the All-Star Game festivities was a “fantastic,” thrill-a-minute experience, reports Alan.

“Nick was greeted by name at the airport – it really made him feel important,” says his dad.

After an opening banquet on Sunday and a formal major league breakfast on Monday, the competitors went to Angel Stadium, where the band Train was rehearsing its opening act for later that night. 

“It was pretty cool with just us and the kids on the fields as the band was playing,” says Alan. “Like a private concert.” 

After the Pitch, Hit & Run contest, which was announced over the loudspeaker by an ESPN reporter, the competitors remained in the dugout as the major league players took the field. From Alan Biddison’s seat in the stands, he could not see what was happening in the dugout. But a friend sent him a text message and told him that Nick was on television on the MLB network – “shaking hands with A- Rod.”  

After watching from the dugout awhile, the youngsters were taken to the bullpen for the rest of the evening, and had the opportunity to shag fly balls during the Home Run Derby.

“As a parent,” says Alan, “it was a real treat to watch the kids having so much fun on such a large stage.”  

The following day, the Biddisons enjoyed the MLB Fan Fest, a baseball-themed amusement park. “The kids continued to receive first class treatment,” says Alan. “They were let in before the general public and allowed to go to the front of the line at several activities.  After Fan Fest we had a final meeting at the hotel where the kids received more souvenirs.  

“He was treated like royalty.”

Major League Dreams
Although Nick was understandably nervous about competing on the national stage, he arrived in California with plenty of experience playing under pressure.

In 2007, his t-ball all star team won the district championship; the following year, his rookie all-star team won the state championship. Since then, Nick – who divides his time between pitching, catching and playing shortstop and center field – has played on a number of travel teams. 

An honor roll student at Our Lady of Lourdes School, he also runs cross country for the school team, and finished fourth in his class in the 2,000 meter run at the 2008 Virginia Association Junior Olympic cross country championship. At last year’s Maymont Cross Country Festival, he finished seventh among the elementary boys in the one-mile race.

Nick has also played basketball for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association Lakers, who went undefeated during the season and won the league.  Nick scored 39 percent of the team’s total points and averaged 10 points per game. 

His athletic ability comes naturally, says his father, who ticks off a long line of accomplished athletes in the family tree. His mother, Tris, was an all-ACC volleyball player at Clemson University, and her father played football for N.C. State University.  His great-uncle played for UNC and the Detroit Lions; his paternal grandfather was an All-American lacrosse player at West Point; and his paternal grandfather played lacrosse in the Olympics. 

According to Nick, however, much of the credit for his baseball success goes to his 12-year-old brother, Alex. When Nick was only three years old and Alex was on a t-ball team, the two brothers would play together in the back yard.

“Having an older brother who was willing to show him how to do things gave Nick a big jump on the game,” says Alan, who has coached Nick for four years. Alex, a pitcher, is an accomplished player as well; his team, like Nick’s, went to the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth state championships in July.

After returning from California, Nick played in the Southeast Regional Tournament at Dorey Park, where his Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association all-star team finished second out of 20 teams. Now he’s looking forward to getting back to travel baseball on the WEBS Slammers team, coached by Greg Haislip of the West End Baseball School.

When asked what stands out in his memory about his Major League Baseball adventure, Nick responds, “It wasn’t really competing so much. It was watching the game and getting to meet some of the players.”

In addition, he brought home some first-rate souvenirs, including an American League all-star jersey, a jersey from the Futures All-Star game, and a baseball card with his picture on it.

And who knows? Judging from his resume so far, and his ultimate dream of playing in the majors, those souvenir jerseys are mere forerunners – and it won’t be long before he’s wearing the real thing.
Community

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

Commonwealth Parenting, CMoR-Short Pump to present 6-part parenting forum series

As part of its 30th anniversary year and partnership with the Children's Museum of Richmond, Commonwealth Parenting will present a six-part RVA Parents Forum Series to address some of the toughest issues confronting parents.

Parenting experts and family educators will tackle topics ranging from bullying to alcohol, sex to divorce, and technology and stress. Parents will learn how to identify potential problems.

"We're excited about bringing this much-needed forum series to parents in central Virginia. Through our valuable partnership with Commonwealth Parenting, we can have a deeper impact in the community through parent and caregiver education," said Karen Coltrane, president and CEO of the Children's Museum of Richmond. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

When the cliche stands tall

Inspirational football movie tries too hard for its own good
When the Game Stands Tall is based on a true story – an unbelievable true story that takes the word “inspiring” about as far as it can go.

It’s a film about Bob Ladouceur, coach of the De La Salle High Spartans, a California high school football team with 12 consecutive undefeated seasons (a staggering 151 games won in a row).

Along the way, Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel) faced the kind of hardship most football coaches (thankfully) can only imagine – suffering a near-fatal heart attack, the death of a star player, and rebuilding the team after that 151-game streak came to a humiliating end. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy political comedy at its finest with The Capitol Steps at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Methodist and Baptist churches unite for the fourth annual Mission Footprint 5K, taking place at Trinity UMC. Or in honor of Grandparent’s Day on Sunday, treat them to A Grand Family Affair or maybe a movie – the 1978 film “Superman” is at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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The Black Authors Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. at Fairfield Library, 1001 N. Laburnum Ave. The group will discuss the book “My Best Friend’s Girl” by Dorothy Koomson.… Full text

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