On Sunday Night, the Cardinals will be participating in the first ever “MLB Little League Classic” in Williamsport, PA.
For the first time in history, a Major League Baseball game will be played in Williamsport, coinciding with the Little League World Series. The Sunday Night matinee will include the Pittsburgh Pirates facing our very own St. Louis Cardinals. Let’s take a look at what makes this unique event just so special.
The game Sunday night will be played at one Bowman Field, home of the Williamsport Crosscutters. The Crosscutters are a Class-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, and play in the New York-Penn League.
Extensive renovations have taken place to transform the minor league field into one fit for big leaguers. Batting cages have been added, club houses and press boxes have been refined, and even extra padding has been added to the outfield walls. This event is clearly a big deal, not only for the baseball community, but for the town of Williamsport itself.
Big League Alumni
Part of what makes this first time event so special is a factor that may be overlooked. Of course, it is a once in a lifetime experience for the kids, to perhaps get to mingle with big leaguers on the LLWS campus. But also, there are players, on both sides, that in fact played in Williamsport when they were 12 and 13 years old, and this game gives them a chance to relive those memories.
Specifically, for the Cardinals, there are two players who enjoyed the glory of playing under the Williamsport sun, competing for a Little League world championship. Lance Lynn, as part of Brownsburg Little League from Brownsburg Indiana, appeared in the 1999 World Series out of the Central region. Randall Grichuk one ups his teammate, having reached the LLWS in consecutive years, 2003 and 2004, out of the Southwest region playing for the team from Waco, Texas.
One of the great parts of Sunday’s game will be that the major league players will have the opportunity to interact with the Little Leaguers competing in the tournament, as well as tour the compound, and even make guest appearances in the commentating booth. I can only imagine the nostalgia Lynn and Grichuk will feel returning to a place that gave them such rich memories years ago.
Most importantly, of course, this is just an amazing, once in a lifetime experience for the kids playing in the LLWS tournament. Either way, this would be true; getting the chance to compete with, yet also befriend, kids from all over the world in a magical summer of baseball is not something most people would ever forget. But add in the presence of Major League Ballplayers, and the experience becomes even more grand.
Games Sunday start at 10 A.M Eastern-earlier than usual to accommodate the big league game later on-with the last game starting at 2 P.M, and figuring to end around 4. The games will consist of those teams who have started the tournament 1-0, and have thus landed themselves in the “winner’s bracket.”
Over the course of the day, players from both the Cardinals and the Pirates will be touring the compound, checking out the games, and getting the chance to meet the kids. A lot of the players present Sunday have been named as the kids’ favorites, such as Andrew McCuthen, Randall Grichuk, and especially Yadi Molina.
But a particularly special player that will be in attendance at the concourse is Seung-hwan Oh. With the team from South Korea making it out of the Asia-Pacific region, Oh will be on another level of celebrity status, as many of the kids from the Korea team look up to him as a big league idol. Asia-Pacific plays Japan at 1:00 Eastern Time in a clash of traditional Little League Titans, a game that I’m sure will be highly attended, and one that I’m sure Oh won’t be missing.
Lastly, of course, at 7:00 Eastern Time, comes the game. Mike Leake, sporting a 3.88 ERA, will be toeing the rubber against Pirates’ right hander Ivan Nova. Just 2.5 back of the Division leading Cubs at the start of play Sunday, it’s obviously a huge game for the Cards.
But it will also be more than that. Every little leaguer and their families will be invited, free of charge, to come watch the big league game at Bowman Stadium. The players in the game will as well be previewing MLB Players Weekend, sporting uniforms with bright colors and their nicknames on the back. Sometimes, I suppose, big leaguers need to feel like kids again, too.