Forget about your purses and jewelry, just don’t
forget to lock up your pins. Because at the
Little League World Series, no pin is safe, and
a baseball isn’t the only thing held sacred.
Keep your money.
Keep your food, your hats, your programs and
It doesn’t matter who you are. They just want
Who, you ask?
Little League Baseball World Series pins are
worth their weight in gold here at the PA P.E.
That’s right, it’s the (unofficial) Pennsylvania
Pin Exchange right here in South Williamsport.
And it’s not just for the kids.
“My brother and I, we were into Little League
coaching and Little League board and we just
started in the pins craze because everybody was
doing it,” said Clark County, Virginia’s Terry
Carroll, who has been trading pins at the Series
for the past eight years with his wife and son.
“Been doing it ever since.”
The pin trading system here at the Little League
World Series is rooted in an Olympic tradition
started in Athens, Greece in 1896.
These “pins” actually got their start as badges
used to identify and separate officials and
athletes. But in 1906, the first true pin – in
the colors of the Swedes – made its debut.
It wasn’t until 1924 that athletes began
exchanging pins as a sign of international
camaraderie, and through the 1970s, trading of
these small signs of friendship was restricted
to athletes and officials.
The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New
York marked the beginning of pin trading en
masse. It allowed spectators and collectors
alike to participate in the international
togetherness for which the Olympic Games stood.
Now, Little League fans around the world just
can’t get enough.
“I never had a pin until four years ago when I
came here and saw the pin trading,” said Matt
Flint, a New York native who has traveled to
Williamsport for the past five Series. “I
thought it would be neat and got into it. Now I
have probably 5,000 pins.”
Kids, players and spectators can always be found
in the pin tent, which serves as the main arena
to facilitate trading. The large white tent is
located between Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer
Stadium, and it is hopping with traders, who are
busy admiring collections and making deals.
Ask the Experts:
Four simple steps to Leblanc
(and Kriner) luck
So you’ve never traded pins
before, have you? Well, pay
attention. Pin Master Tanner
Leblanc and his apprentice Corey
Kriner will tell you all you
need to know about getting the
Step 1. Approach the trader.
Leblanc: You ask them, “You
Step 2. Survey the goods.
Kriner: You ask them what they
want to give ya, and then
they’ll show you.
Step 3. Make a decision.
Kriner: If you don’t like any of
them, you’ll say…
Kriner (to Leblanc): Umm, what
do you say?
Leblanc: Nah, I don’t wanna
Kriner: Yeah, you say I don’t
Step 4. Move on.
Kriner: Then, you can go find
Kriner and Leblanc will return
to the Little League World
Series on Wednesday to trade
more pins, but don’t expect to
find them glued to the pin tent.
After all, the boys will be
watching some baseball, too.
Who do they want to see go all
the way in Williamsport?
“Russia,” said Kriner.
“Because Russia always wins,”
“Yeah, [we go] all the time,” said Davenport,
Iowa player Chase Pfab. “Before the trading tent
started we used to trade a lot in [the
International Grove]. Now the trading tent
started, so we trade a lot down there.”
Pfab said he started didn’t start trading until
his regional tournament August 4 - 13 in
“Everybody wants the [Snickers] cleat pins,”
said Pfab. “And they’ll trade, like, 10 pins for
Each year, Snickers designs a new pin, and
produces a set specific to each team. This year,
it’s the cleats. Then, the kids are given all
the pins to trade among themselves and try to
assemble a complete set.
Pfab, whose favorite pins are his quartet of
tigers from a Little League team in Wisconsin,
has all 16.
But there are pin collectors who come to the
Little League World Series in search of certain
pins, and sometimes things get ugly.
“Sometimes it is [cutthroat],” said Carroll.
“But overall, they’re good pin traders.
Everybody tries to get along.
“Once in awhile you’ll have a bad egg in the
bunch, as they say, but he kinda senses that
nobody wants to trade with him and he’ll either
straighten up or he’ll go on,” he added.
Luckily, Carroll said there are no bad eggs yet
In fact, many of the adults who come to
Williamsport support the young traders.
“I didn’t realize how involved [trading] was,”
said Heather Shnyder, mother of rookie pin
trader Corey Kriner. “I didn’t realize the
people that are into this – the kids all the way
up to the retired folks.
“It’s amazing how all the people say ‘Oh, is
this his first time? Well here, we’ll give him a
couple extra pins so he can get started,’” she
continued. “And they’re trying to coach him
along as to which ones are a little bit more
valuable than the others, and which ones might
be more in demand than others.”
But adults aren’t the only experts on the going
rate in Williamsport.
Eight-year-old Tanner Leblanc has been in the
business of pin trading for half his life, and
it’s his friend Corey Kriner’s first day.
“[Tanner]’s been teaching me how to do it,” said
Kriner. “And probably by the end of the day I’ll
have 50 or more.”
How many does the nine-year-old have now?
“Too many to count,” he said. “I have a lot of
favorites, but there’s two I’m not trading.”
Those two are a small gold Devil Rays pin and an
American flag pin with the words “Rockland
County” across the bottom, so traders beware.
Those are Kriner Keepers.
“I don’t really know why [they are my
favorites], but they are really special to me,
in a way,” said Kriner.
Leblanc’s favorite pin was hiding in his pocket.
“Canfield Baseball, Ohio,” it says.
Neither boy is from the district his favorite
pin represents. Both are from neighboring
But it’s Leblanc, a four-year veteran of the
Pennsylvania Pin Exchange, who is the pin
trading master (see sidebar).
“Most of the people – if it’s your first time –
you go up to one of those guys over there and
they’ll give you some free ones,” said Kriner.
“It’s really fun, once you get the hang of it.”
It’s “those guys over there” who are the
bloodline of the pin trading system. Almost all
of them want to help.
“Every situation is different,” said Carroll.
“Some kids just starting out, they may not have
very good pins. But you trade with them anyway
because you gotta remember you were there one
“When you got started, people treated you good,
so you gotta treat other people good,” he
explained. “And that’s where you gotta explain
to kids, say, ‘Hey, be nice and people will
trade with you. If you’re mean and nasty,
nobody’ll trade with you.’”
Carroll isn’t the only one who’s in it for the
Rick Lumbard is a hometown trader who has come
to the Little League World Series for nine years
to trade pins.
“My kids got me into it,” Lumbard said. “We live
right up the road, so we’re here every year.”
Lumbard sits just outside the pin tent with a
little wooden table and a folding chair to
escape the hustle and bustle of the other
traders. A purple cloth bag hangs under the
table, waiting to keep his bartered daily prizes
safe and out of reach.
“I don’t have anything as major as some of these
people do,” he said. “But I’m always here and
the kids are always trading.”
It doesn’t matter to Lumbard what kind of pins
he trades for, either.
“It’s just a piece of metal,” he explained.
“There’s some pins you try to collect – the
Little League pins over the years, the Snickers
pins – everybody’s trying to get the snickers
pins. Not me.”
Then there’s Jay Freeman.
Freeman owns the Natural Energy Utility
Corporation, a residential utility company, and
drives to Williamsport from Kentucky to
volunteer his time each year (and this is his
12th) as a Section 1 usher at Lamade Stadium.
Freeman has been making Little League mascot
Dugout pins for 10 years now. He has a pin for
each of her 13 different costumes.
Between games Monday, he was caught making a
trade with another pin fanatic.
“He does Smurfs,” Freeman said of his trading
partner. “Then he made a set of frogs, and so I
just traded him my 13 pins for his eight pins.”
Freeman designs his pins every year and sends
them off to be produced.
“This year, I spent a little over $10,000 on
pins,” Freeman said. “I don’t sell ‘em, just
trade ‘em. I give them away. Everything in my
pocket I give to kids.”
Why would anyone spend so much money, just to
give it all away?
“It’s just fun,” he said. “Something else to do
here at Little League.”
Though its Freeman’s son who got the pin
collection started, the businessman has taken
over the hobby in a big way.
“I turned my conference room into corkboard
walls, there’s no plaster in the room,” Freeman
explains. “When I go back, I give [my secretary]
all the pins and she puts them all up on the
corkboard so when I have meetings in my
conference room, people always say, ‘what’s
that?’ And I explain to them that it’s Little
Freeman created 20 new pins this year and has a
collection of more than 10,000. He’ll probably
return to his hometown of Ashland, KY with three
or four thousand more for his secretary.
So if anyone sees Jay Freeman’s secretary, tell
her to start warming up that pushing finger.
“It just really something fun to do, if you
wanna know the truth,” Freeman said.
“Unfortunately, you have some adults here that
make pins that their heart’s not right. They
take advantage of the kids, they do.”
Sometimes, the young ballplayers don’t realize
the value of their pins. Other times, players
are very clear on how precious their “stock” is.
“The hardest team to trade with was three years
ago, our Moscow team,” said Freeman. “They knew
their Moscow pins had value, so they were very
hard to trade with. They would trade one of
their pins for three, four or five of your pins.
They were very smart – they knew their pins were
So what are the bylines of the Exchange?
“The rule of thumb I’ve learned in coming up
here for eight years is you trade one pin for
one pin,” said Carroll. “[But] once in a while,
you have your little deals that people make on
the side, just like anything else.”
And what do people look for in a pin?
“I just like anything that appeals to me,” said
Flint. “It could be Little League affiliated, it
could be a cartoon character, whatever. A lot of
people here, it’s just Little League pins. They
don’t want anything else.”
Some are looking to complete unfinished sets.
“I’m looking for pins to continue the sets that
I have,” said Gil Ladouceur, an umpire who
annually drives to the Series from Canada.
Ladouceur got his first pin in 1978, and he has
only missed one year since.
Ladouceur has more than 25,000 pins, which take
up all four walls of a room in his LaSalle,
“I’ve got no place to put ‘em,” he said. “My
wife says no more walls.”
But pin trading is hugely popular among the
Little Leaguers, too, and none of the players
lets the language barriers of the international
tournament get in the way.
“We use finger signals and all different stuff,”
said Iowa’s Ryan Shumaker.
For instance, a two-for-one trade would be
indicated by raising two fingers, followed by a
fist and then a raised index finger.
“Latin America,” Pfab added, “they say ‘change’
for ‘trade’ and stuff like that. They point at
books and say ‘change change.’”
Mexico’s Alejandro Valenzuela trades pins
through his bi-lingual teammate, Kevin Garcia.
“I trade them to see what teams were here and
what players I could get them from,” said
He is one of only three Mexico players who
trades with other teams, and he has a pin for
“He takes a person who knows how to speak
English [to get them],” Garcia said. “Like I’m
Freeman, on the other hand, will just give pins
away to the kids he can’t communicate with.
“If they give me one [back], fine. If they
don’t, fine,” he said.
The P.A.P.E. is nothing to scoff at. The players
are all mini-Greenspans and the traders are the
buyers and sellers that make the system tick.
And this Little League tradition not only
travels far and wide, but transcends through the
Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek has kept
the pins he collected during his stay at the
1984 Little League World Series through the fame
and fortune of winning the Major League Baseball
World Series. In a conference call Friday night
with the New England Little League champs from
Westbrook, Maine, the major league catcher asked
if the boys from Maine were still trading.
Of course they are, Jason. Everybody’s doing it.