WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – For many in the Pirates clubhouse, this experience known as the Little League Classic means much more than just a baseball game. Typically, on any given day within the walls of a professional baseball team’s clubhouse, media will ask questions concerning that night’s starting pitcher or an on-base streak or the overall importance of a series. Today, the players were humbled by the ability to play the game of baseball and hopefully pass on their excitement to the next generation.
“For one, I don’t take this game for granted,” Josh Harrison, or “JHay” as his jersey tells us, said. “We were all their age at one point and had the hopes and aspirations of playing the major leagues. Here we are in the majors, and it’s pretty cool being around the kids to let them know that I was in their shoes. Regardless of how hard it may be, if you love it, continue to have fun and you don’t know where it will go.”
Harrison, a self-proclaimed “big kid at heart”, was very apparent in his enjoyment of the events leading up to the game this evening. When asked, Harrison gave a little tidbit of advice to the kids they were interacting with.
“I told them that anything they will do will be hard work, whether it’s baseball or not,” Harrison said. “Hard work is something that you have to do in anything you do. You have to have fun, too. We play at the highest level, and one thing that can be taken away sometimes is the fun, because everything you do is magnified up here. You have to remember it’s a kids’ game. When I was 12 years old playing this game, this is what I wanted to do. Don’t take it for granted.”
Adam Frazier, like many other players, held a similar humbling sentiment. This isn’t just another one of those mall signings or an appearance at a community event; the Little League Classic is a big deal, not only to a lot of young kids, but to the players themselves.
“For us to be here, at a place that we dreamed we could be at when we were that age, it was cool for us to finally take that in,” Frazier said. “They are living out one of our dreams, and we are living out one of their dreams. We wanted to give them a taste of what we’re like. They might be where we are one day.”
Jacob Stallings didn’t realize until yesterday that the MLB roster was expanding to 26 players for the game, and he was chosen to come to Williamsport with the Pirates. Stallings has always been the type of guy to not take his life for granted, and today’s experiences brought more of the same.
“It’s humbling to walk through the crowd and everyone wanting your autograph,” Stallings said. “It’s not something that I think I’ve ever experienced. It’s really cool to hang out with the kids and give them a memory.”
Stallings elaborated and said that when he was a kid, he met a few major league players, and the experience has stuck with him through his lifetime.
“For them to meet Andrew McCutchen and some of these guys, it just adds to their experience, and it’s something I’m sure they will never forget,” he said.
Clint Hurdle Highlights a Special Day at the LLWS
“I never signed so many autographs in the men’s bathroom,” Clint Hurdle said. “It’s ok. We washed our hands. We were good. Enthusiasm everywhere you turn. It was really refreshing.”
The pre-game talk with Clint Hurdle wasn’t about much the X’s and O’s of baseball; rather, it was about what he saw today from the men on his team and the reactions of the Little Leaguers.
“From the time we got off the bus, it was like fireworks,” Hurdle said. “It made you smile and appreciative things.”
Hurdle used two words to describe the interactions between his players and those at the Little League World Series Complex: kind and colorblind.
“The one thing I walked away from at Don Baylor’s funeral — the two words that attached to this man — were kind and colorblind; that’s what I saw all day today,” Hurdle said. “People being kind. People being nice. People having fun. People appreciating other people.”
The vision of Major League Baseball through this initiative was to plug this next generation of kids back into the game and bring an excitement to baseball. Hurdle said that, because of the selflessness of the players and MLB, that has happened.
“This isn’t about us,” Hurdle said. “This is about something much bigger than us. Yes, the game counts, but this is about those young kids out there. This is about baseball. For one day, put self in your pocket. Go smile. Love some people. Take some selfies. Too many times in this world, we can get a little self-centered and today is about giving something back. We’re going to play, and it’s going to count; however, we have a chance to set the bar.”
Historic Bowman Field Shows Off Huge Renovations
Hurdle said that you wouldn’t recognize Historic Bowman Field from what it used to look like. Both he and Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the playing field is in amazing shape, and seating is better for fans.
“I’m shocked by how great it looks,” Commissioner Manfred said. “The biggest challenge of this game were the field renovations. This is a very old, historic facility in need of repair and renovations. The work is all positive.”
Hurdle, who said that typically something labeled as “Historic” simply means that it is old, said that the Williamsport Crosscutters have been gift wrapped something amazing from Major League Baseball.
“It’s been brought up to date and gift wrapped,” Hurdle said. “It’s a fantastic present that MLB has gifted the city of Williamsport.”
As for playing on the field, Josh Harrison said that it will take a little time getting used to the sight lines and boundaries; however, those are all things they will figure out during batting practice.
“The backdrop behind the plate, hitting backdrop behind center field wall,” Harrison said about the difficulties adjusting to a new field. “At PNC, I know where the tarp is playing third. I know where the ball girl or ball boy is. I think that will be the biggest thing, but it’s all things we can find when taking BP.”
Moroff Catches the First Pitch
Max Moroff, the lone Little League World Series alumni for the Pirates, was chosen to catch the ceremonial first pitch tonight. A representative from each team lined up from the center field wall to the pitcher’s mound, and they relayed the ball to each other until it finally reached Moroff at home plate.
Moroff has been in the spotlight all day, starting at the Little League World Series Complex. Before the first pitch of the North Carolina and Carolina game at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, Moroff, as well as Lance Lynn and Randal Grichuk of the Cardinals, were honored for their previous participation at the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
All three were given their game used jerseys from when they played in the tournament.
“They kept them there, and today they framed them for us,” Moroff said. “It was a nice ceremony. Jerseys are a little small. I wasn’t a big kid back then, so it was funny to see that.”
Moroff said that the moment was extremely special.
“It gave me the chills a little bit,” Moroff said. “It was my first big baseball moment. My favorite moments in my career — being there and playing in front of the fans.”
He traded hats with a player from the Southeast team, the region that he represented in Williamsport. He said that the series may have prepared him for his professional year to come.
“Playing in front of 25 or 30 thousand people on ESPN, that was definitely the big league treatment,” Moroff said.