Moroff excited to return to LLWS roots

Moroff excited to return to LLWS roots

PITTSBURGH -- Max Moroff has a specific destination in mind when the Pirates visit Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport on Sunday afternoon.

Moroff was there 12 years ago for the Little League World Series, playing third base and shortstop for his team from Maitland, Fla. In the United States semifinal against Vista, Calif., teammate Mike Tomlinson hit a ball off the foul pole. But it was called a double, not a potentially game-changing home run, and there was no replay process in place. Moroff's team went on to lose to the California club, 6-2, and fell out of the tournament.

The Florida boys were disappointed but not deterred. The next day, after they'd been eliminated, their curiosity led them back to the foul pole. They found the spot where Tomlinson's ball had hit the pole, Moroff said, and he intends to see if the mark is still there 12 years later -- enduring proof of what could have been a Little League World Series championship run.

"We went and looked, and there was a dent or something in the foul pole right where it hit. So it's like, 'Oh my gosh, we could have won,'" Moroff said. "I'm going to go check and see if the dent is still in that foul pole."

Bucs recall Little League experiences

Moroff is the only player on the Pirates' roster to have played in the LLWS, so the Bucs' matchup with the Cardinals in Major League Baseball's first Little League Classic on Sunday (on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET) will hold special meaning for him. Coincidentally, Pittsburgh called up the utility infielder from Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday, just in time for a return trip to Williamsport.

"It's going to be awesome. It's going to bring back some memories, just to see the kids out there having fun," Moroff said. "It's going to be a great time. I'm looking forward to going back to see if there's any changes [at Lamade Stadium]. I think they moved the fences back. That might be the only change. Just see how it looks."

Moroff has plenty of memories from his first trip to the Little League World Series site. He remembers the veritable All-Star team of players from the northern Orlando area, a group that included pitcher/shortstop Dante Bichette, Jr.

"We were really good. We knew we had a good team and ended up doing well," Moroff said, then he smiled. "We shouldn't have lost."

Max Moroff played in the 2005 Little League World Series. (AP)

Representing the Southeast Region, Moroff's team beat clubs from Iowa and Pennsylvania before losing to the eventual champion, Hawaii, in pool play. It couldn't get past the California team, but that did not ruin Moroff's overall experience.

Standing in front of his locker at PNC Park on Friday, Moroff fondly recalled getting to know kids from around the world in the facility's game room. They talked about baseball, played ping pong and exchanged pins that represented their respective teams. Moroff kept those pins, he said, somewhere in his home in Florida.

Simply playing in front of a national TV audience was an unforgettable opportunity at the time, Moroff said. When the team returned home, they were welcomed with a parade at Walt Disney World.

"Not a lot of kids get to do that," Moroff said. "It was like we won the whole thing. We got back, and we were area superstars signing autographs for everybody at 11 or 12 years old. It was something special."

Still, Moroff's got to see about that foul pole.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.