At a recent Chamber of Commerce PM Exchange Williamsport Crosscutters Vice President & Marketing Director Gabe Sinicropi entered the room wearing a name tag with the notation, ‘no, I don’t have any tickets.’ By now even the most casual baseball observer is well aware of the intent of Sinicropi’s disclaimer.
As has been widely publicized a collaboration between Major League Baseball and Little League International will be bringing a regular season MLB game to BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field featuring the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, August 20. The date coincides with the first weekend of play for the Little League World Series and will necessitate a schedule change to enable all the participating Little League teams and their families to be on hand for what will be the first regular season Major League game ever played in our community.
But for the local fans it will be strike one, strike two, strike three, you’re out as ticket sales will not be available to the general public. While the unavailability of tickets is a disappointment the event has a tremendous upside and is part of MLB and the MLB’s Player Association to commit resources to growing the games of baseball and softball, on both the grassroots and developmental levels.
The idea for the game was first discussed during last year’s Little League World Series when Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred was in town. Following last July’s successful MLB game between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins at Fort Bragg, North Carolina ideas were being kicked around as to where future such games could be held. The positive relationship existing between LLB and MLB and ESPN’s role being in town to televise the Little League Series got the ball rolling with the formal announcement being made earlier this month.
“Major League Baseball’s greatest responsibility is to ensure that today’s youth become active participants in our game as players and fans,” Manfred emphasized. “The ‘MLB Little League Classic’ exemplifies our entire sport’s commitment to building a stronger connection between young people and the National Pastime. Our players will honor the great tradition of the Little League World Series and create lifelong memories for the Little Leaguers, their families and the City of Williamsport. I thank the Pirates and the Cardinals, Little League Baseball, Governor Wolf, the Crosscutters, the City of Williamsport, and ESPN for helping us organize what will be an unforgettable weekend.”
While creating future memories the event will also bring back memories from the past for many of the Major Leaguers, especially the Pirates Andrew McCutchen and the Cardinals Randal Grichuk. McCutchen, after signing his first professional contact with the Pirates in 2005, patrolled Center Field at Bowman Field for 18 games, hitting .346 during his brief Williamsport stay. Grichuk played in the 2003 & 2004 Little League World Series on teams from the Lamar National Little League, Richmond, Texas.
The Pirates have moved the starting time to 4:30 p.m. for their August 19 game with the Cardinals at PNC Park. Following the game the teams will fly to Williamsport. On Sunday the Major Leaguers will visit the Little League complex to take in Series action and mingle with the teams.
It will also be a trip down memory lane for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle who spent the 1991season as the manager of the Williamsport Bills, then a Mets Double-A team in the Eastern league.
“I’m well familiar with the Williamsport area,” Hurdle explained. I lived about 10 miles north of town in Tommy Herr’s hunting cabin in a little town called Trout Run. I spent a lot of time in Bowman Field. It was a Double-A spot for the Mets. We had left Jackson, Mississippi to relocate the team to Binghamton, but the park there wasn’t finished. We needed to find a free-agent site to play the 1991 season. We found Williamsport and we played in the Eastern league. So I’m very familiar with Bowman Field. This will be a huge draw. I think it’s going to be a great night for baseball within that venue to reignite the younger kids that are playing in town. In Williamsport that time of the year is electric anyway. This will add to it and it should be fun.”
With our community already in the baseball spotlight in late August Little League President & CEO Steve Keener has worked closely with Manfred to bring about the Bowman Field experience.
“We continue to work closely with our friends at Major League Baseball to find new and exciting ways to engage more children around the world with our great game. We look forward to welcoming the Pirates and the Cardinals to Williamsport during the Little League Baseball World Series for this exciting new initiative. We look forward to a fun and memorable MLB Little League Classic.”
August 20 will indeed be a red-letter day for our community; just don’t ask Sinicropi for tickets!
“This whole game is a partnership between Major League Baseball and Little League Baseball. In many ways we are innocent by-standers. We are just the main tenants in the place where this game is going to be played. We have been a large part of everything that has been going on and will reap some of the benefits, but at the end of the day this is between Major League Baseball and Little League. They are the two entities that are making this happen.”