5 Little League World Series Stars Currently in the Majors
For 70 years, the Little League World Series has featured 11 and 12-year-old kids, many who have aspired to play the game of baseball professionally in the MLB. While it is a long shot for most, some LLWS stars do end up having their dream of playing in the Majors come true. In honor of the 70th iteration of the tournament, let’s look at a few current MLB players that had big roles in the LLWS.
Year: 2003 & 2004
LLWS Team: Lamar, Texas
MLB Team: St. Louis Cardinals
In both 2003 and 2004, a young Randal Grichuk led his Lamar, Texas Little League squad to the LLWS, both as a first baseman and pitcher. In 2003, Lamar reached the U.S. Semifinal before losing to the New England regional champs. In 2004, Lamar once again reached the tournament, this time making it all the way to the U.S. Championship, losing to Conejo Valley, California, but ultimately taking third place in the world by winning its consolidation game. Grichuk’s prowess on the field never let up and was taken in the first round of the 2009 MLB draft. He made his MLB debut for the Cardinals on April 28, 2014.
LLWS Team: Toms River, New Jersey
MLB Team: New York Yankees
Third baseman Todd Frazier has long been a beast of a hitter since coming to the Majors back in 2011. He won the 2015 MLB Home Run Derby and placed second the following year. It’s no coincidence that, as a 12-year-old with pro aspirations, Frazier played in the LLWS with a team dubbed “The Beasts of the East.” Toms River East, coming out of New Jersey, was an unstoppable force thanks to its power hitting and high level of skill. The team went undefeated in the tournament while Frazier went 4-4 with a leadoff homer and was the winning pitcher against the team out of Kashima, Ibakari, Japan. The “Beasts” were the first American Little League world champion since 1993. 13 years after his spectacular LLWS performance, Frazier made his first Major League plate appearance on May 23, 2011 for the Cincinnati Reds.
LLWS Team: Panama City, Panama
MLB Team: San Diego Padres
In 2004, Christian Bethancourt caught and pitched for his Little League all-star team out of Panama City, Panama. Coming out of the Latin America region, Bethancourt’s team went undefeated in international pool play, but lost to Guadelupe, Mexico in the Quarterfinals. Four years later, Bethancourt was signed as an undrafted international free agent and began playing minor league ball at just 16. On September 29, 2013, Christian made his MLB debut for the Atlanta Braves.
Year: 2003 & 2004
LLWS Team: Willemstad, Curacao
MLB Team: Baltimore Orioles
You’re probably seeing a pattern at this point: 2004 was a big year when it came to LLWS stars that would eventually become MLB players. Jonathan Schoop, playing for Pabao Little League out of Willemstad, Curacao, helped take his team all the way to the promised land, beating Thousand Oaks, CA in the world championship game. This was the first LLWS championship for the Caribbean region. Four years after he impressed in that tournament, Schoop was signed by the Orioles organization. He made his first MLB at-bat, a single against the Toronto Blue Jays, on September 25, 2013.
LLWS Team: Chandler, Arizona
MLB Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Rookie slugger Cody Bellinger has made a splash in his first full season of MLB action. The first baseman is making his case for National League MVP, posting 34 home runs and 79 RBIs at the time of this writing. Before Bellinger was a 22-year-old rookie phenom, he was a 12-year-old slugger doing big things in the 2007 LLWS. He led his all-star team out of Chandler, AZ through the pool play before meeting a hard-hitting Warner Robins, GA squad that ended the team’s run in the semifinals. Six years later, Bellinger was selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2013 draft and made his Major-League debut on April 25 of this year.
(Image courtesy of Sam Nabi via Flickr.)