The middle of August means two great sounds can be heard here in the West Branch Valley. First, the cracking of shoulder pads as area high school teams are working on their second week of two-a-days. Every player and coach is looking forward to the first live action against a team wearing a different helmet. We'll have much more for you on this in upcoming weeks. For those of you who can't wait for a taste of Friday Night Lights, Webb Weekly Live will again be bringing you the best matchups of area teams throughout the gridiron season. Again, teaming up with Cable Sports Productions and PA Sports Live.
The other sound is the ping of the bat and roar of the crowd coming from Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums as the 71st Little League World Series gets underway. It is simply the greatest celebration of youth and sports in the World. How blessed we are to have it right here in our backyard.
The game founded by Carl Stotz in the mid-1940s has grown into the most participated in youth sports organization. Current Little League President and CEO Steve Keener and staff have done a fantastic job overseeing Mr. Stotz's dream. They continue to make the young ballplayers the first priority. Safety and everyone getting an opportunity to play are always job one.
From batting helmets to pitch counts, Little League has led the way in many safety aspects of the game that have reached the Major Leagues.
If you are visiting our area for the World Series, welcome and good luck to all the players, coaches, and fans. I hope you enjoy our local hospitality and make some fantastic memories. There is so much to do in the Williamsport area that can be found within our pages, as well as some great places to grab a meal or sit down and dine.
Before I write any further, I'd like to tip my 71st edition Little League cap to Mr. Bill "Buck" Byham. Mr. Byham had been heard over the airways since 1961. He loved Little League Baseball and announcing the World Series right up through last year. This year I’m sure he is part of God's broadcasting team. You will hear and read much about him over the next couple of weeks. He was a great family man, educator, coach, announcer, writer, and lover of fellow man and baseball. Thanks to wife Nellie for sharing him with us all those years. One thing I know, Mr. Byham would have loved is his favorite ball club, the Pittsburgh Pirates, coming to Williamsport to take on the St. Louis Cardinals at the Major League Baseball/Little League Classic at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field. He would also love the renovations to the old ballpark for the big game. Wow, what a venue! And no I can't get you any tickets, sorry.
What a great coming together of MLB, Little League Baseball, and the City of Williamsport to make this happen. An assist to the Williamsport Crosscutters for all their help with the event. Again Mr. Keener is on point, along with many others, looking for ways to make the grand event of the Little League World Series even better.
So this got me thinking about former Little League stars that played in Williamsport and went on to play in the Major Leagues. The number surprised me; I remember when it was only a handful. So how many Little League World Series players have gone on to wear an MLB cap? Fifty-two in total and more on the way.
Next LLB/MLB trivia question — how many have played in a Little League World Series and the October Classic? Eleven — Jim Barberie – 1954 National LL, Schenectady, NY, 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers. Derek Bell – 1980 and 1981 Belmont Heights LL, Tampa FL, 1992 Toronto Blue Jays. Michael Conforto – 2004 Redmond North LL, Redmond, WA, 2015 New York Mets. Charlie Hayes – 1977 Hub City LL, Hattiesburg MS, 1996 New York Yankees. Carney Lansford – 1969 Briarwood LL, Santa Clara, CA, 1988, 89, 90 Oakland A's. Jason Marquis – 1991 South Shore LL, Staten Island, NY, 2004 St. Louis Cardinals. Boog Powell – 1954 Orange LL, Lakeland, FL, 1966, 69, 70, 71 Baltimore Orioles. Gary Sheffield – 1988 Belmont Heights LL, Tampa, FL, 1997 Florida Marlins. Jason Varitek – 1984 Almonte Springs LL, Almonte Springs, FL, 2004, 2007 Boston Red Sox. Ed Vosberg – 1973 Cactus LL, Tucson, AZ, 1997 Florida Marlins. And, Rick Wise –1958 Rose City LL, Portland, OR, 1975 Boston Red Sox.
A bonus LLB/MLB trivia question — of the aforementioned 11 players, who also has a College World Series visit to Omaha on their resume? Michael Conforto – 2013 Oregon State, Jason Varitek – 1994 Georgia Tech and Ed Vosberg – 1980 Arizona.
Some other notable players who made it to both the LLWS and a MLB WS — Lloyd McClendon – 1971 Anderson LL, Gary Indiana, hit five home runs in five official at bats. He played for the Reds, Cubs, and Pirates and also managed the Pirates and Mariners.
Dan Wilson Barrington LL, Barrington, IL played for Cincinnati and Seattle. He’s regarded as one of the best catchers in MLB history, and holds the record for the American League with a .995 career fielding percentage. He is most remembered as MLB Hall of Famer Randy Johnson's catcher for years with the Mariners.
Cody Bellinger – 2007 Chandler LL, Chandler, AZ. He’s hit 33 home runs in his rookie season with the LA Dodgers and became the first Dodger rookie to hit for the cycle. He should be the National League rookie of the year.
So get out and enjoy the 2017 LLWS. Who knows what future major leaguer may be found on the biggest little stage!
God Bless America.