In 1985, a team from South Korea won the Little League Baseball® World Series. It took 29 years for the country to send another team to South Williamsport, and they went undefeated to win the 2014 Championship banner. The last time the Kansas City Royals appeared in a World Series was when they won it all, also in 1985. Now, they too are riding an undefeated streak going into the 2014 Major League Baseball World Series.
The San Francisco Giants have their own Little League® connection. In 1994, the only baseball World Series played were the ones fielded by Little Leaguers®, due to the Major League Baseball Players Association strike. At the Little League Baseball World Series that year, Yusmeiro Petit, Giants pitcher, hoisted the Championship Banner as a member of the Coquivacoa Little League from Maracaibo, Venezuela. The same league represented Latin America in the 2014 Little League Baseball World Series.
Yusmeiro Petit (number 3, right-center) with his 1994 Little League Baseball World Series Championship team.
Each year, Little Leaguers around the world dream of playing Major League Baseball and winning a World Series. Many of the players on the rosters of the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants got their starts on Little League fields, and one of those teams will claim the Commissioner’s Trophy. This year will be the last time the trophy is presented by Allan H. (Bud) Selig, who retires at the end of the year after more than 20 years as Commissioner of Baseball. Rob Manfred, the man succeeding Mr. Selig, will be the first Little League graduate to hold the position of Commissioner of Baseball. Mr. Manfred visited the 2014 Little League Baseball World Series this August. Also, Game Four of the MLB World Series will be dedicated to youth outreach and will celebrate various initiatives, including the Little League program.
This MLB postseason had perhaps the most Little League World Series talent on its rosters. In addition to Mr. Petit, his teammate from the 1994 Little League Baseball World Series, Guillermo Quiroz, is also his Giants teammate. Mr. Quiroz was on San Francisco’s roster as a catcher for their National League Divisional Series against the Washington Nationals. Their National League Championship Series opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals, had three former Little League World Series contenders on their roster. Pitcher Lance Lynn, who has pitched in the postseason in each of his four big league seasons, played in the 1999 Little League Baseball World Series for Brownsburg (Ind.) Little League. And two of the Cardinals standout rookies, Randal Grichuk and Kolten Wong, also participated in Little League World Series tournaments.
Mr. Wong was part of a team from Hilo (Hawaii) American Little League that competed in the 2007 Senior League Baseball World Series. Mr. Wong had an impressive tournament, slugging 1.308, while going 7-for-13 (.538) with two home runs, two doubles, and a triple. Mr. Wong’s brother, Kean Wong, a player in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, played in the 2008 Junior League Baseball World Series, and also competed in the Senior League Baseball World Series, winning the 2011 Championship.
Kolten Wong at the 2007 Senior League Baseball World Series Championship in Bangor, Maine (photo courtesy of Monty Rand).
Mr. Grichuk was a two-time Little League Baseball World Series participant (2003 and 2004) for Lamar National Little League, from Richmond, Texas, representing the Southwest Region. In the 2004 Little League Baseball World Series, he helped power Lamar National Little League into the United States Championship Game by going 12-for-19 at the plate for a .632 batting average, highlighted by three doubles, four home runs, 13 runs batted in, and a slugging percentage of 1.421.
“Playing in the Little League World Series put Randal on the map and I still remember him as an 11-year-old, taking care of the fields with his dad, and helping his mom and sister stock the concession stand,” said Vinny Raviele former Lamar National Little League President. “Randal and his family stayed in Little League for years after Lamar National made the Series, and now when Randal comes home on a day off you can find him on a Little League field working with the teams. The whole town loves Randal so much that he is a superstar in Richmond.”
Randal Grichuk, one of two players in the 2014 MLB Postseason to play in both the 2003 and 2004 Little League Baseball World Series.
But Mr. Grichuk isn’t the only player from the 2003 and 2004 Little League Baseball World Series who competed in the MLB postseason. Baltimore Orioles’ outfielder Jonathan Schoop from Pabao Little League in Curacao (pictured above), representing the Caribbean Region, was also a two-time Little League World Series participant. As an 11-year-old, the current Orioles’ infielder was 10-for-19 with a .526 batting average, with three doubles, seven runs scored and four RBI. Pabao Little League lost 2003 the International Championship.
One year later, Pabao Little League became the first and only Caribbean Region Champion to win the Little League Baseball World Series. Mr. Schoop was 9-for-17 at the plate, hit .529 with a double, five runs batted in and six runs scored. This wasn’t the final Little League World Series appearance for Mr. Schoop, who also competed in the 2008 Senior League Baseball World Series. He and his Pabao Little League teammates finished as runners-up in that tournament.
The other Little League World Series alumni to play in the MLB postseason this year was Cory Rasmus. Mr. Rasumus played in the 1999 Little League Baseball World Series with his brother, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder, Colby. The Phenix City (Ala.) National Little League team they played on was coached by their father, Tony, who, along with their mother, Robin, were honored as the 2014 George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year.
As Little League wraps up its 75th Anniversary celebrations, the hard work and dedication of players and coaches who got their start in Little League will be on display at the MLB Fall Classic. Even Kansas City Royals Assistant Groundskeeper, Evan Fowler, played Little League growing up, and is part of the three-generation Fowler Family, who has been volunteering their time as members of the Little League Baseball World Series grounds crew since 1995.
Good luck to the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants organizations, and congratulations to all Little League graduates who participated in an exciting 2014 Major League Baseball season and postseason.
If you know of any former Little Leaguers that played in the Major Leagues during the 2014 season, please e-mail Chris Downs (cdowns@LittleLeague.org); or Brian McClintock (bmcclintock@LittleLeague.org) with their name, current Major League team and the name of the city or town where they played.