Landon Hollinghead sets his eyes on the pitcher. In batting
stance, he watches as the pitcher winds up and releases the ball.
Landon eases into the swing
and with a crack of the bat, the ball flies over the fence for a home run.
While he's just 8
years old, Landon knows a thing or two about baseball.
"I love to play baseball," said
Landon. "It's the greatest sport ever!"
Landon plays USSSA travel ball with the
Diamond/Simcox Academy in Knoxville. The Academy was founded and is ran by former Southeastern
Conference (SEC) player and previous University of Tennessee baseball coach Larry Simcox, who helped
coach two College World Series teams.
"Larry Simcox and the organization is absolutely
top-notch," said Chris Hollinghead, Landon's father.
Landon's team, Diamond Blue 8U, finished
with a 50-9 record this season, with the help of coaches Marty Webb and Travis Baker.
team's success and exposure enabled some of the players to receive individual honors. For his play
at third base and at the plate, Landon was selected to the 2013 USSSA 8U Tennessee All-State
Baseball Team. Three of his teammates also made the All-State team: Cameron Coleman (a first baseman
from Tellico Plains), Bo Baker (a shortstop from Kingston) and Kooper Webb (a second baseman from
All four players were invited to participate in the 2013 All-State Showcase in
Alabaster, Ala, from July 26-28, featuring players from both Tennessee and Alabama. More than 400
All-State players, ages 7 through 14, attended the showcase.
Landon was the only one from his
Diamond Blue 8U team to make the trip to the showcase.
"Landon was just fortunate to be
there. The Diamond Blue team is loaded with talent," said Chris. "If it wasn't for the team's
success, Landon would have never gotten the chance. But, once he got to Bama, he definitely made the
most of it. It was a fun experience."
During opening ceremonies, each player was presented
with an All-State ring and assigned to a showcase team for the weekend. In addition, players could
pick one contest (base-running speed, bunting accuracy, throwing accuracy or home run derby) to
Landon signed up for the home run derby for his age division. Through the
competition, players were given five swings with one point being awarded for each ball hit over the
fence for a home run.
Landon's first three swings resulted in grounders, but then he found
his rhythm, hitting homers on his last two swings. With only one hitter remaining, Landon found
himself sitting in first place. But the last hitter was the favorite to win the derby, Landon's
father told The Advocate & Democrat.
"He was a big kid from Alabama named Ben Pearman,
who had hit many home runs during the season for his team, the Birmingham Bombers," said Chris,
noting the Bombers won the Alabama USSSA 8U State Championship this year. "Landon watched that kid
walk up to hit and I could tell he lost a little hope."
Landon looked over at his father and
said, "Dad, that kid's gonna hit a ton of home runs!"
"I told him that he probably would, but
that would be OK," said Chris. "So much has to line up just right in situations like that ... good
pitch, good swing, good hit. It all has to come together."
Pearman hit two homers with his
first two swings and tied Landon's score.
"Landon looked at me and said, 'I'm done,'" said
Chris. "I have to admit, we were both wondering what the consolation prizes were."
Pearman went cold. On his next three swings, he didn't connect solidly
with the ball, grounding two of his hits and popping up the other. The two players headed into a
tie-breaking championship round.
Landon went to the plate first, finding the rhythm from the
end of his previous round and hitting three homers from his five swings.
"I started getting
good hits and got into a zone. My hitting coach, Aaron Small, says that's called getting hitterish,"
Landon says with a smile. "Getting hitterish is really fun!"
Pearman came up short in the
tie-breaker, unable to make any home runs.
Out of 10 swings in the two rounds, Landon hit
half of them for home runs, making him the All-State Showcase Home Run Champion.
met him before this weekend, but Landon Hollinghead is one heck of a ballplayer," said Scott Bowman,
an All-State Nationals Coach. "Man, that kid can hit."
For the showcase tournament, Landon
was placed on Bowman's team, the All-State Nationals. Chris said Landon was surprised to see that
one of his teammates happened to be Pearman. The team played four games in the tournament and
"At first it was really weird playing without my friends," said Landon. "I
didn't really know anybody."
But it didn't take long for Landon to overcome that feeling, going 8
for 12 at the plate with two singles, four doubles, one triple and one inside-the-park grand slam in
"What a great kid and ballplayer that Landon is," said Jeff Latham, an
All-State Nationals coach. "If he's ever interested in moving to Alabama, I want to be the first to
At the close of the tournament, Landon was nominated for Most Valuable Player (MVP),
Best Offensive Player and Best Defensive Player. This week, the family received word that out of
more than 50 players, Landon was named a Co-MVP of the All-State Showcase. Landon will receive his
MVP award at the 2013 Youth Sports Hall of Fame Banquet, held in Orange Beach, Ala. on Dec.
"I didn't even know they were giving out a MVP award till the coaches told us at the end
of the tournament," said Landon. "I just tried my best all weekend and had a lot of
While the awards continue to pile up for the young baseball player, the home run derby
sticks out the most.
"The whole weekend was fun, but the coolest thing was the home run
derby! I never thought I had a chance of winning, and I was super surprised when I did! Oh yeah, one
more thing...the indoor poor at the hotel was awesome!" exclaimed Landon.
His father laughs,
beaming with pride for his son.
"It's cool when any of our Tellico or Monroe County kids get
honors and recognitions," he said. "There's a ton of talent right here in our communities. It's nice
when people from outside our county get to see that as
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