Little League Classic caps weekend in Williamsport
By Jesse Sanchez
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Big league dreams came true on Sunday night at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field.
The first MLB Little League Classic between the Pirates and Cardinals wasn't just a home run, it was a grand slam.
"I have a lot of great days in my job. But today, even before we get to the Major League game, has been one of the absolute best," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "I would be remiss if I didn't start with thanking partner [Little League president and CEO] Steve Keener. The event they run year in and year out is absolutely phenomenal. I was honored to be a part of it over there today."
Part of Manfred's goal this week was to expand baseball's reach by bringing Major League Baseball to a place it had never been before and celebrate it. The trip to Williamsport was also designed to inspire little boys and bring the big boys back to their baseball roots.
The Little League Classic was also about the love of the game -- now and in the future -- and fun, lots and lots of fun. The Pirates won this historic game, 6-3, and then copied their Little League counterparts by slapping hands with the Cardinals in a handshake line in the middle of diamond after the game was over.
"I think first and foremost, this is an indication of the strength of the relationship we had with Little League and the respect we have for the job that Little League does, particularly in the 8-12 space," Manfred said. "Secondly, I think publicizing the game, marketing the game to young people has to involve young people. The idea that we can have Major League players come in, go see the Little League World Series game and then play a game in a stadium full of Little Leaguers, those are good benchmarks for us. The kind of exposure you get from that undertaking is something you can't pay for and is hard to quantify."
The Commissioner arrived early Sunday morning and watched firsthand as the Major Leaguers cheered on the Little Leaguers at Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer Stadium, the home of the Little League World Series. He was there when the Little Leaguers returned the favor a few hours later at the newly renovated Bowman Field.
10:30 a.m. ET: Manfred, players are here
The day began at the Williamsport Regional Airport, where the Bucs and Cards were welcomed to town by a crowd of Little Leaguers. Rather than heading to a hotel or straight to the ballpark, they're going to the Little League World Series complex -- and some of them, including Carlos Martinez and Dexter Fowler, will ride with their younger counterparts.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has arrived for the @MLB Little League Classic. The Pirates and the Cardinals are expected to arrive soon. pic.twitter.com/ubJGUyq0dT
Both clubs spent the afternoon at the Little League World Series site, meeting players and their families, while taking in a game at Lamade Stadium. It was a homecoming of sorts for three alumni of the Little League World Series: Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk (2003-'04 LLWS with Lamar (Texas) National) and starter Lance Lynn (1999 LLWS with Brownsburg, Ind.) as well as Pirates infielder Max Moroff ('05 LLWS with Maitland, Fla.).
Only 1 kid on the Dominican team has his parents here so the Mexican team parents are stepping in and going crazy for the DR. Awesome. #LLWSpic.twitter.com/V4FKH6cGiE
The Cards and Bucs will play tonight's game at historic Bowman Field, home to the Class A Short-Season Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League. The ballpark is the Minor Leagues' second-oldest and is renovated and ready for a crowd of around 2,500 people -- almost entirely Little League players.
The clubs will give fans a sneak peek at the Players Weekend gear that will be worn throughout the Majors from Aug. 25-27. They'll wear jerseys with nicknames, not their last names, on the back. They'll swing specially designed bats, lace up flashy cleats and sport colorful caps.
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.