By Luke Ramirez
Little League® and Major League Baseball collaborated to create the MLB Little League Classic game in Williamsport, Pa. Besides playing a regular-season game at Historic Bowman Field, members of the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals stopped by Little League International to see what the LLBWS is all about.
Little League players eagerly waited for the teams to arrive from Williamsport Regional Airport. The Pirates and Cardinals were greeted by some of their biggest fans who were meeting them for the first time. The MLB players brought along some of their own autographed baseball cards.
Josh Harrison of the Pirates was quite interested in collecting autographs from the Little Leaguers. He brought a pair of white cleats that he asked players to sign before he laced them up for the big league game later that night.
Little Leaguers were quick to begin interacting with the Major League players after they got off the bus and signed some autographs. Not many of the boys were shy and took selfies, shared jokes, and even connected via social media.
Then it was time for the MLB players to be escorted into the stadiums to watch some LLBWS action. They navigated through the massive Sunday crowd, but eventually made it to their Stadium seats behind home plate.
“This is something else,” said Pirates first baseman Josh Bell. “I’m happy we get to come out here to soak all of this in and do our part to develop the game.”
Though Major Leaguers are used to playing in front of large crowds at big league parks, the atmosphere at Volunteer and Lamade Stadiums, easily impressed the pros.
MLB Commissioner, and Little League graduate, Robert Manfred also watched a game at Lamade stadium with Little League President and CEO Stephen D. Keener. His cooperation with Little League Baseball and Softball are what made the MLB Little League Classic possible.
“We are really thrilled with how the day has gone,” said Commissioner Manfred. “There is a special bond being a part of baseball broadly defined and I think that the big league guys really understand what an important part of the game Williamsport is.”
After checking out some of the game, Mr. Harrison made his way to the Creighton J. Hale International Grove where the LLBWS players live during their stay in Williamsport. It did not take long before he was challenged to some ping-pong by his 12 and 13 year-old hosts.
One special part of the festivities was the return to Williamsport by Cardinals Lance Lynn and Randal Grichuk, along with Pirate Max Moroff. All three players participated in the LLBWS and were honored with framed jerseys from the teams they played on as well as first-pitch honors before Sunday’s game between the Southeast and the West.
Although many of the big leaguers wanted to hang out with their new friends, they had to get back on the bus and make the five-mile trip to Bowman Field for their Sunday night game. When the day was done, the impact they made on the LLBWS players made their time in Williamsport that much more special.
“We always look up to big league players and today I got to meet some,” Southeast pitcher Matthew Matthijs said. “It was just so cool.”