In 2013, an 11-year-old Blake Money stepped onto the field at Lamade Stadium for the first time with his Southeast Region teammates. 10 years later, Mr. Money continues to play the game he loves at the professional level within the Baltimore Orioles organization.
Ahead of the 2023 Little League Baseball® World Series, Presented by T-Mobile, Little League® caught up with Mr. Money for a special “Six Innings” segment.
First Inning: 15 years ago, you traveled to Washington, D.C., to play Tee Ball on the South Lawn of the White House. What do you remember from this experience and how you felt during it?
“I still to this day have not fully realized the meaning behind it. I just remember as a young kid that I was really excited to go play and, me being the competitor I am, I took it completely seriously,” said Mr. Money. “But, it was fun! I got to meet the President, got to have a tour of the White House, got to go see all the cool things in Washington, D.C., and it was just awesome to be able to do that.”
The White House Tee Ball Initiative was first held in 2001 by former President George W. Bush to promote interest in childhood sports. In the second-to-last game played, one child was selected from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The players were organized into teams representing North, South, East, and West for a doubleheader. Mr. Money was selected to represent Florida in that 2008 event.
Second Inning: Five years later, in 2013, you put on the Southeast Region jersey for the first time at the LLBWS. What can you remember feeling during your first series?
“It was very surreal and something I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Mr. Money. “As far as the games go, I don’t think you’ll ever forget the first time you show up and there’s a crowd of 20,000-plus people there. It was awesome to go out there and play in front of that large of a crowd. I think the biggest thing that I took away was how supportive the fans were.”
Mr. Money says his favorite off-field memory is meeting the players from across the world and spending time with them in the International Grove and throughout the Little League International complex.
“We actually grew extremely close with the players from Australia my first year because they allowed us to use their gloves for a skills session before the tournament started since we didn’t have ours,” said Mr. Money. “From there on out, throughout the Grove we would go swimming, or we would go in the Rec Hall and play ping– pong together. It was just a great time to have a team from outside the country that you were close with and share moments off the field with, that was the biggest takeaway that I had.”
- The Southeast Region team lost its first-round game to the New England Region team before winning two out of its three games in the elimination bracket, eventually being knocked out by the Northwest Region team.
- Multiple players from the 2013 Southeast Region team would continue their baseball careers at the college or professional level, and for some, both. These players include Robert Hassell III (San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals), Christopher McElvain (Vanderbilt University, Cincinnati Reds), and Zane Denton (University of Tennessee). Southeast Region teammate Conner Smith did not continue his baseball career at the collegiate level but is now a country music artist and released his debut EP in 2022.
Third Inning: You just played your final year as a Louisiana State University (LSU) Tiger and ended it victorious. How did it feel hoisting the NCAA Men’s College World Series trophy over your head in your final moments as an LSU pitcher?
“There is probably no better feeling than the last out being recorded and then the dog pile at the end. Everything that you’ve done throughout the year to get there – every early morning, late afternoon, long practices, standing out in the heat – you feel it all in that moment. It all rushes to your head when you make that final out and you get to run out there and celebrate,” Mr. Money said. “Then to hoist the trophy, that’s really insane, because you think of the people who have done it before you and then to go out there and do it, that is something that will last forever.”
- During his three years with LSU, Mr. Money pitched in 51 games (16 starts), recording 118 strikeouts in 123.2 innings.
- In 2023, Mr. Money recorded no walks and two strikeouts in 1.1 relief innings versus Florida in Game 2 of the College Baseball World Series final three-game series. LSU won the final series, 2-1, crowning them as National Champions.
Fourth Inning: You are now moving on to the biggest stage of baseball. What was going through your mind when you were drafted by the Baltimore Orioles organization?
“It’s something I have wanted since I was a child. It’s something that I’ve worked towards for a really long time. So, to be able to experience being drafted and knowing you have the chance to accomplish the ultimate goal, that’s really exciting,” said Mr. Money. “There’s a different feeling when you become a professional, to a certain degree, because now you’re solely focused on one thing and that one thing for me is baseball. I get to do that every day, it’s a part of who I am, so it’s been awesome.”
- The Baltimore Orioles selected Mr. Money in the 12th round with the 361st pick of the 2023 Major League Baseball Draft.
Fifth Inning: For the Little Leaguers® who are right where you were 10 years ago, what advice do you have for them as they look ahead to their future baseball careers?
“Just soak in every moment because you’ll never get to be 11– or 12-years-old again,” said Mr. Money. “Just take it one pitch at a time and remember that it’s not about who gets the credit. It’s about getting to be there, playing the game that you love with your friends – so just enjoy every moment and make it last.”
Mr. Money surprised the 2023 Southeast Region team, represented by Nolensville (Tenn.) Little League, with a videoboard message before its first game in the 2023 Little League Baseball World Series.
Sixth Inning: In 2014, you returned to the LLBWS and played against Mo’ne Davis, who set history as the first female pitcher to win a game at the LLBWS. Based on your experience playing against her, what did it mean to you to see Stella Weaver on the roster of the Southeast Region team at this year’s tournament?
“I think Stella is in a very unique position to go out there and make some history of her own and have a positive impact. I think that her going is awesome and that girls in sports are phenomenal,” said Mr. Money. “I know where sports are headed, and I think it’s great to see female players on a team right now so that they get to have that experience and make a difference in the way that they are.”
- Stella Weaver is the 22nd female to play in the LLBWS. In the Southeast Region’s first game versus the Metro Region, Stella became the 10th female to record a hit in the tournament’s history.
- Against the West Region team, Stella recorded the team’s first hit of the game, making it her fourth hit of the series to tie the record for most hits by a U.S. female player in the LLBWS.