These MLB Stars Showed Off In The Little League World Series Before Getting Called Up
The Little League World Series has been played for over 70 years. It’s been nationally broadcast on television since 1963, showcasing the youngest talent in the world who will one day become superstars. The special kids playing today will go from idolizing Todd Frazier to being idolized by the next generation. As Terrence Mann said in Field Of Dreams, “baseball has marked the time. This field, this game; it’s a part of our past.” Here are the greatest Little League World Series stars from the past that are making waves in MLB today.
Jurickson Profar Powered His Way To The Big Leagues
When the Texas Rangers called Jurickson Profar up to the big leagues for the first time, they had high hopes for the former Little League World Series star. Playing in the 2004 and 2005 tournament, Profar was prolific. Hitting .352 with seven runs batted in, he proved to be a force to be reckoned with.
When times got tough for Curacao (his team), he took the mound and pitched 13 innings, only giving up four runs. His skills were undeniable, and scouts lined up to recruit him. The Rangers won the bidding and he thanked them with a home run in his first career at bat.
Cody Bellinger Isn’t A Rookie Sensation For The Dodgers
Cody Bellinger won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2017 after crushing 39 home runs and driving in 97 runs.
Of course, if you had seen him play in the 2007 Little League World Series for Chandler, Arizona, you would have seen those numbers coming.
Colby Rasmus Hit Five Home Runs In The LLWS
Playing for Phenix City, Alabama in the 1999 Little League World Series, Colby Rasmus hit .500 with three runs batted in and three runs scored. Using his bat as a wrecking ball, he helped the team win the American title and advance to the World Series championship match against Japan.
Continuing to show his promise as a player through his high school career, Rasmus was drafted 28th overall in 2005 by the Cardinals. In 2009 he made his MLB debut and finished the season nearly being voted Rookie of the Year.
Jonathan Schoop Developed Power After The LLWS
Since his first at bat in 2013, second baseman Jonathan Schoop has averaged more than 20 home runs a year. In 2017, he knocked 32 balls over the fence, a career high. If you saw him when he was five feet and three inches tall in the Little League World Series, reading those numbers probably surprises you.
Or maybe not. In the 2004 tournament he hit .526 with three doubles and four runs batted in. He didn’t hit any home runs, but all the signs of the player he would become were there.
Cory Rasmus Played With His Brother In 1999
The Rasmus family is creating quite the legacy in baseball. Cory Rasmus played in the same Phenix City LLWS team that his older brother Colby did. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Cory was taken in the first round of the 2006 MLB draft by the Atlanta Braves. In 2013 he was called up to the big leagues.
Ten days after making his major league debut for Atlanta, the Braves played the Blue Jays and Cory Rasmus was called into the game to face Colby. As older brothers tend to do, Colby knocked a double off his little brother.
Devon Travis Celebrated With The Winners After Losing The LLWS
Devon Travis serves as a heart warming reminder of what the Little League World Series is really about. Facing off against Japan in the 2003 title game, his team lost 10-1.They refused to hang their heads low, however. Both teams celebrated on the field after the win, reaching the pinnacle (at that point) of the sport they loved.
As Travis put it, “We were just little boys playing the game we loved.” This boy’s dreams came true in 2012 when he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers. Two years later, he was traded to the Blue Jays, where he played until 2018. Travis now coaches for the GCL Braves, which is the rookie-level team for the Atlanta Braves.
Sean Burroughs Thew Back-To-Back No-Hitters In The LLWS
At the MLB level, throwing a no-hitter is rare, so when Sean Burroughs threw back-to-back no-hitters in the 1992 Little League World Series, you know scouts were watching. His incredible feat led to a appearance on the David Letterman show where he admitted his career goal was to be a gynecologist.
Ultimately, Burroughs stuck to baseball and was drafted ninth overall by the Padres in 1998. In 2002 he earned the distinction of being the first player to walk the team off with a win at Petco Park.
Randal Grichuk Couldn’t Stop Hitting Home Runs In 2004
Randal Grichuk’s MLB career has fallen short of expectations in recent years, but if anyone is primed for a comeback, it’s one of the greatest players in Little League World Series history. In 2004, Grichuk used his bat to power Lamar National Little League to the to United States Championship game.
On the way to a chance at the title, Grichuk couldn’t stop hitting home runs. By the time his team unfortunately lost (everyone’s a winner in our hearts!), he had mashed four home runs, driving in 13 total runs while hitting .632.
Yusmeiro Petit Is The Only Player To Win The LLWS And The MLB World Series
Yusmeiro Petit was 10-years-old in 1994 when he won the Little League World Series with for Coquivacoa, Venezuala. It was the first time a team from Venezuela won the title. Years later, Petit proved his talent was no fluke, becoming one of the Giants’ most trusted pitchers in their 2014 title run.
Petit’s biggest moment came during an 18-inning NLDS game against the Washington Nationals. He pitched six scoreless extra-inning frames. San Francisco won the game and eventually the World Series. The celebration made Petit the first player to ever win at both levels of World Series competition.
Michael Conforto Helped Lead The Oregon Ducks To The College World Series
Michael Conforto’s team lost the 2004 Little League World Series, despite him going an eye-opening six for ten at the plate. Luckily enough for Conforto, he’s pretty great at reaching the big game at the end of the season! In 2013 he helped lead the Oregon Ducks to the College World Series.
Then, as a New York Met, he hit two home runs in game two of the 2015 MLB World Series. The feat made him the first rookie to hit multiple home runs in a World Series game since Andrew Jones in 1996. He is also one of three players to ever appear in the World Series at the little league, college, and professional level.
Todd Frazier Was The First LLWS Star To Win The Home Run Derby
Todd Frazier might not have a World Series championship yet, but he did lead his little league team to glory in 1998. Leading off for Toms River, New Jersey, Frazier put on a show. In game two of the series he hit a grand slam in the third inning, giving his team a 6-4 lead.
As a major league player, he rose quickly through the Cincinnati Reds’ organization and made his debut in 2011. Four years later, in front of his hometown crowd, Frazier beat Joc Pederson of the Dodgers to win the MLB Home Run Derby. In April 2022, Frazier announced his retirement from professional baseball.
Lance Lynn Turned His LLWS Success Into A Major League World Series Title
Lance Lynn didn’t have a great Little League World Series in 1999. His team, Brownsburg, went 0-3 in the tournament and he went 0-1 with a 4.09 earned run average. Lynn must have learned from his mistakes, because his MLB career has been anything but disappointing.
As a rookie with the Cardinals in 2011, he won the World Series, beating the Texas Rangers. Since then he has compiled a career 3.53 earned run average with over 80 career wins.
Michael Saunders Fell In Love With Baseball After Playing In The LLWS
Growing up in British Columbia, Michael Saunders played every sport that was available to him. From hockey to baseball he played it all. Then, in 1999, he played in the Little League World Series for Gordon Head Little League.
The team didn’t win, but that didn’t matter to Saunders. His passion became baseball, “I think playing in an international competition [at that age] and then getting a chance to play with the national team and travel the world really made me fall in love with the game.” He was drafted by the Mariners in 2004 and made his debut in 2009. Saunders was released in 2019 and is now the manager of the single-a affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, the Augusta GreenJackets.
Adam Loewen Did It All In The LLWS
Adam Loewen was a little league sensation when he appeared for British Columbia as a pitcher in the 1996 Little League World Series. During the Canadian Championship game he pitched a three-hit shutout. He wasn’t just the team’s best pitcher, though. He was also their best hitter.
Like another Canadian on this list, Loewen also played hockey growing up, and wasn’t sold on a career in baseball until after his little league experience, “I always loved hockey more, but I remember that summer being the most fun I ever had.”
Ruben Tejada Made His Major League Debut At 20-Years-Old
Ruben Tejada went two for three when he faced Japan playing for Santiago de Veraguas Little League in the 2001 World Series. Japan won, but his performance was enough to get scouts to follow him back to Panama. In 2006, he signed with the Mets as an international free agent. He was 16-years-old at the time.
Four years later, Tejada made his major league debut, going hitless in two at bats. Since then he’s bounced back and forth between the major and minor leagues, most recently playing for the Chicago White Socks Triple-A team, the Charlotte Knights.
Christian Bethancourt Was A Catcher And Pitcher In The 2004 LLWS
In the Majors, Christian Bethancourt is a catcher, but as a young lad in the 2004 Little League World Series he played pitcher too. Playing for the Panamanian All-Star team in 2004, he played well enough to gain international interest.
As soon as Bethancourt was old enough to sign with an MLB club he did, joining the Atlanta Braves in 2008. Five more years passed before Bethancourt stepped behind a big league plate for the first time. It was well worth the wait.
Gary Sheffield Joined The 500 Home Run After Winning The LLWS
Gary Sheffield was a member of the 1980 Tampa team that won the the Little League World Series. He drove in five runs in the final, leaving his mark on the competition. When he became an MLB superstar, he left an even bigger mark.
By the time Gary Sheffield hung up his cleats, he had hit over 500 home runs. This made him the only player in Little League World Series history to hit that many homers at the professional level.
Jason Bay Is The Best Canadian To Ever Play In The LLWS
Jason Bay had a stellar career in MLB, playing for the Pirates, Mets, Red Sox, Padres, and Mariners. To this day, he is the only Canadian born player to win the Rookie of the Year award. He was also named to three all-star teams in his 10-year career.
As a little leaguer, Bay participated in the 1990 World Series as a member of Trial, B.C. His team made it all the way to the semifinals before being knocked out by tournament champions Taiwan.
Jason Varitek Went From The LLWS To Breaking The Curse Of The Bambino
Jason Varitek was the starting catcher for the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the World Series, breaking the “Curse of the Bambino.” In 2007, he doubled down, winning a second World Series with Boston and etching his name in East Coast history.
Before becoming a Boston legend, though, Varitek played for Altamonte Springs, Florida in the 1984 Little League World Series. The team won the United States Championship bracket, but lost to South Korea 6-2 in the title game.
Boog Powell Went From Pitching 11 Games To Playing In Four World Series Games
Boog Powell was the pitcher for his Lakeland, Florida, team in the 1954 Little League World Series. Before there were restrictions on how often a kid could pitch, Powell was recorded playing 11 straight games prior to the tournament. His team didn’t win that year, being eliminated by a group from Schenectady, New York.
Powell switched positions as he grew older, opting to play outfield and put his pitching days behind him. While playing with the Orioles, Powell played in four World Series games and won an AL MVP award in 1970.
Rick Wise Pitched One Of The Greatest Games in MLB History
Pitcher Rick Wise played in the MLB for an incredible 18 seasons. He pitched for the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, which many fans recognize as the greatest World Series game in history. Along with Boston, Wise played for Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland, and San Diego.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Wise led the Rose City Little League Team to the Major League World Series in 1958. He’s one of the few baseball players to play in both the Little League and the Major League World Series.
Wilson Alvarez Played 13 Years In The MLB
Wilson Alvarez played a miraculous 13 years in the MLB as a left-handed pitcher. But his baseball journey didn’t start there. Alvarez represented his hometown of Maracaibo, Venezuela in the 1982 Little League World Series. They finished with a 2-1 record.
His professional career started when he signed on with the Texas Rangers in 1986. But his MLB debut didn’t happen until 1989, at the ripe age of 19. One of the biggest moments of his career was in 1991 when he pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox.
George Tsamis Only Played One Year In The Majors
George Tsamis played for the Campbell, California little league team in the 1979 Little League World Series. His team ended up losing to Taiwan, 2-1.
After playing college ball for Stetson University, he was drafted by the Twins and made his major league debut in 1993. It would be his one and only season in the major leagues. However, he would go on to become a manager for the Waterbury Spirit and the New Jersey Jackals.
Catcher Dan Wilson Was A Baseball Prodigy
Regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in major-league history, Dan Wilson set an American League record for catchers, with a .995 career fielding percentage. He played with the Cincinnati Reds and the Seattle Mariners. He played in the majors for 14 years, making his mark as one of the greatest catchers the league has ever seen.
Wilson’s talent was recognizable from an early age. He led his Barrington, Illinois Little League team to the 1981 Little League World Series, finishing in 3rd place.
Derek Bell’s MLB Debut Ended In A World Series Victory
Derek Bell is one of 11 players to be lucky enough to play in both the Little League World Series as well as the Major League World Series. Bell played for the Belmont Heights team from Tampa Bay, Florida. His team won the U.S. championship but lost to Taiwan in the world championship. He played in both 1980 and 1981, losing both years to Taiwan.
Bell made his MLB debut in 1991, where he played left field for the Seattle Mariners. He was part of the winning team that year, defeating the Atlanta Braves in game six of the World Series.
Héctor Torres Played On The 1958 Little League Championship Team
Nicknamed “La Malita,” Héctor Torres played in the MLB for nine seasons for the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres and the Toronto Blue Jays from 1968 to 1977. A shortstop, Torres had a batting average of .216 with 18 home runs and had some struggles in his career.
Torres played in the Little League World Series in 1958 for the championship team, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
Outfielder Clete Thomas Was Living The Dream
Outfield Clete Thomas was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida where his baseball team won the 2002 state championship. He manned right field for Auburn University and played in the minors before making it onto the Detroit Tigers as a center fielder in 2008.
Thomas played in the 1996 Little League World Series with the RL Turner Little League in Panama City, Florida. His last MLB appearance was in 2013 with the Minnesota Twins.
Rubén Tejada Started Young
Hailing from Panama, Rubén Tejada played for the Santiago de Veraguas Little League team, making it to the 2001 Little League World Series representing the Latin American region.
He made his professional debut in 2007, signing with the Mets as a free agent and becoming the youngest player on the Mets Opening Day roster since 1971 when Tim Foli did it. Tejada went on to play with the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, and Baltimore Orioles. Currently, he plays for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Chin-Feng Chen Was The First Taiwanese Pitcher To Ever Be Hit By A Ball
Chin-Feng Chen is a Taiwanese baseball player who represented Tainan County, Chinese Taipei, in the 1990 Little League World Series. His MLB debut came in 2002 when the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him.
He was the first Taiwanese ballplayer to ever play in the MLB. After having an iffy couple of seasons with the Dodgers, and refusing to go down to their farm team, Chen decided to play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. But his claim to fame is probably in 2003 when he became the first Taiwanese pitcher ever to be hit in an MLB game; he was playing for the Colorado Rockies at the time.
Jeff Clement Was A First Round Draft Pick
Born and raised in Marshalltown, Iowa, at the age of 12 Jeff Clement led his hometown little league team to the 1996 Little League World Series. His love for baseball didn’t stop there. Clement played baseball as a USC Trojan and won an award for being the top collegiate catcher, the Johnny Bench Award.
He was a first-round draft pick in 2005, but struggled with injuries for a few years. He didn’t make his MLB debut until 2007 with the Seattle Mariners. His career was short, and after bouncing around between the Mariners, Pirates, and Twins, Clement decided to retire in 2014.
Jeff Frazier Went From Player Of The Year To The MLB
Born and raised in Toms River, New Jersey, Jeff Frazier’s little league team went to the World Series in 1995 and the Junior League World Series the following year. In 2001, while in high school, he was named the Star-Ledger’s state player of the year.
Fraizer attended Rutgers University where he played baseball as a Scarlet Knight. Starting off in the minors, Fraizer was promoted to the MLB in 2010 as a Detroit Tiger. His batting average is .217.