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.
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