With the 2016 Little League World Series set to get underway this weekend in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, young baseball players from around the world will get the chance of a lifetime as they showcase their skills on national television and chase the childhood dream of winning a LLWS Title. Here are a few who made it all the way to MLB.
But before the tournament begins, let’s not forget that plenty of current and past Major League Baseball players actually played in the Little League World Series long before they became professional athletes.
Here’s a look at my All-MLB Little League World Series team.
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Pitcher, Lance Lynn
Lance Lynn, currently sidelined for the entire 2016 MLB season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, was a key member of the Brownsburg Indiana Little League World Series team in 1999. Oddly enough, his team went 0-3 and Lynn coughed up a monstrous grand slam during one of their three losses.
Catcher, Jason Varitek
Former Boston Red Sox team captain and two-time World Series Champion Jason Varitek wasn’t just a stud at the major league level. In 1984, he played shortstop, first base, and of course, catcher for the Altamonte Springs team that represented Florida in the Little League World Series. Despite going just 1-for-7 with three walks and a run scored, Varitek led Altamonte Springs all the way to the Championship game, where they lost to Seoul, South Korea 6-2.
First Base, Boog Powell
Dust off the history books and head to the archives for this one.
Before winning two World Series titles, earning the 1970 American League MVP and being named to the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame, Boog Powell was once the leader of a 1954 Little League World Series team from Lakeland, Florida. Despite Powell’s best efforts his team was eliminated by a team from Schenectady, New York.
Second Base, Jonathan Schoop
Current Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop was hands down the team MVP of the 2004 Little League World Series winning team from Curaçao. In the title game against California, Schoop went 2-for-3 with an RBI and actually closed out the game from the mound by recording the final two outs.
Shortstop, Jurickson Profar
23-year old Jurickson Profar participated in back-to-back Little League World Series’ in 2004 (alongside Jonathan Schoop) and 2005. In ’04 he helped the Pablo Little League team from Willemstad, Curaçao capture the LLWS Title against Thousand Oaks, California.
The following year Profar and his teammates reached the championship game again, but lost to Ewa Beach, Hawaii.
Hopefully Profar can overcome his countless injuries and make it back to the Major League diamond sooner rather than later.
Third Base, Todd Frazier
Eighteen years ago, three-time All-Star and 2015 Home Run Derby Champion Todd “The Godfather” Frazier stood at 5 feet 2 inches,104 pounds and was the star of the Toms River Little League team that represented the East and beat Kashima Little League (Japan) to win the 1998 Little League World Series Title.
Nicknamed the “Beasts of the East”, Todd Frazier and his Toms River teammates marched their way to a perfect record and, when it came to crunch time, little Todd Frazier shined. In the 1998 Title Game v. Japan, Frazier went 4-for-4 with a leadoff home run and recorded the win from the mound and the game-winning strikeout that sealed a 12-9 Toms River victory, marking the first time a United States team would win a LLWS Championship since 1993.
Outfield, Gary Sheffield
Before slugging his way to 509 home runs, nine All-Star appearances and a World Series title in 1997 with the Florida Marlins, Gary Sheffield appeared in the 1980 Little League World Series with Belmont Heights, Florida Little League. Back then Sheffield was a pitcher, but unfortunately he came away with a loss in the 1980 final against Taiwan.
Outfield, Jason Bay
In 2004 Jason Bay broke into the big leagues and was crowned the National League Rookie of the Year – the only player from Canada to ever do so. Back in 1990 he led the Trail, British Columbia squad to the Little League World Series, where they went 1-1, beating Mexico 8-3, but losing 20-1 to Chinese Taipei. Fortunately for Jason Bay and his friends from up North, they beat California 5-4 in the Consolation game.
Outfield, Randal Grichuk
Despite getting off to a slow start to the 2016 season, St.Louis Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk is one the bright young stars in the game today. Just over a decade ago, Grichuk appeared in back-to-back Little League World Series’ with Lamar Little League (Texas) as a pitcher and first baseman. He went 4-for-9 in 2003, but in 2004 Grichuk led the entire tournament in hits, homers and RBI’s despite his team going 1-2.
Designated Hitter, Derek Bell
Alongside teammate Gary Sheffield, the 1992 World Series Champion Derek Bell led the 1980 and 1981 Belmont Heights Little League team from Tampa, Florida all the way to the final in Williamsport, where they lost to Taiwan in both years. To this day Derek Bell is the only play in baseball history to appear in the LLWS Title games twice and later in the MLB World Series.
In total, 39 young kids who played in the Little League World Series went on to make a name for themselves and play in the big leagues.
I hope everyone enjoys the 70th Little League World Series this summer, and keep in mind that while these are only 11 and 12-year old ball players, one day one of them might just be playing for your favorite MLB club!