Every year, players from across the world take part in the Little League World Series.
After the time in the spotlight, the players often go in varying directions. Some continue to play baseball for a long time. Others find another avenue by which they channel their passion, often being another sport.
Over the years, there have been some pretty famous names to emerge back on major sports’ stages after getting the chance to compete in the Little League World Series. These have included players that continued on to reach Major League Baseball, but others as well that became big names in the NHL, NASCAR, NFL and more.
Sporting News is taking a look at 15 former Little League World Series players, who found themselves again in a prominent position in the sports world.
A native of Trail, British Columbia, Bay and the Trail Little League team reached the 1990 Little League World Series. That team advanced past Mexico in the quarterfinals, but fell to eventual champion Taiwan in the semifinals. The Canadian team won the consolation game against California 5-4.
Bay enjoyed a standout MLB career, chiefly for his time with the Pirates, with whom he was a two-time All-Star and 2004 Rookie of the Year winner. He made a third All-Star appearance in 2009 with the Red Sox and finished his 11-year MLB career with a slash line of .266/.360/.481, 222 home runs and 95 stolen bases. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019.
Before he was a World Series-winning star, Bellinger helped the Chandler National Little League team represent Arizona to a Little League World Series appearance in 2007. His team reached the semifinals, where it fell to Georgia, which went on to win the Little League World Series that year.
Ten years later, Bellinger started his MLB career with a splash. He made his first All-Star team and was named the NL Rookie of the Year The following year, he was the NLCS MVP and a year after that, he took home the NL MVP honors. He became a World Series Champion in 2020. His 2021 campaign has left a lot to be desired, but the 26-year-old has still established himself as one of the game’s most feared bats.
Cassel might have made his name in football, but in 1994, he nearly made history in baseball. As part of the Northridge City Little League team, Cassel helped the California-based team reach the finals after beating Virginia 3-0. His team fell 4-3 to Venezuela.
Though Cassel was drafted by the Athletics in 2004, it was football that ultimately became his focus. He was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft and took center stage as the starter in 2008 when Tom Brady went down with a knee injury and later, in a stint with Kansas City, was named to a Pro Bowler in 2010 after he threw 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions and guided the Chiefs to a 10-5 record. He continued to bounce around in his NFL career after he left the Chiefs following the 2012 season, spending time with five more teams before retiring after the 2018 season.
Conforto has long been a baseball player in the northwest. He first made a name for himself when he helped lead the Redmond Little League team from Redmond, Washington, to the Northwest spot in the Little League World Series. His team was eliminated, but Conforto stayed in the area for a while, eventually playing baseball for Oregon State, where he reached the College World Series in 2013. Two years later, he was playing in the World Series for the Mets, becoming just the third player ever to play in all three World Series.
The outfielder has continued to develop into a star talent for New York. He was named to the 2017 NL All-Star team and hit 30 homers in a season for the first time in his career during the 2019 campaign, when he launched 33. Though the 2020 season was shortened, it was his best year by rate stats as he posted a career-high 154 OPS+, .322 batting average and .412 on-base percentage, while his .515 slugging percentage was the second-best in his career. It’s been a down year at the plate for the 28-year-old, but he remains a key cog in the future for the Mets.
Before Dillon was driving cars, he was riding up in one from North Carolina to Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series. Dillon was a part of the Southwest Forsyth Little League team in Clemmons, North Carolina, that represented the Southeast in the tournament. His team did not advance past pool play, but he took the lessons from that team into helping him in his professional NASCAR career.
And that driving career has been a successful one. He won the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series. He has won three races in the NASCAR Cup Series over his career with 55 top 10 finishes and six pole positions. As things stand in the current Cup Series standings, he is the 17th ranked driver in the projected playoff, per NASCAR .
Drury has had quite the journey in sports, but it all started in 1989 in the Little League World Series. He guided the Trumbull Little League team from Trumbull, Connecticut, to the finals of the Little League World Series, where he held Chinese Taipei to just two runs on five hits — while driving in a pair of runs — to help his team win the championship.
Despite the success in baseball, it was hockey that became Drury’s calling. He earned the Calder Trophy in the NHL, won a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche, became a captain of the Sabres and the Rangers and twice earned Olympic silver medals. His playing days came to an end in 2011, but he shifted his focus to the front office as he moved up the ladder with the Rangers, ranging from director of player development all the way up to his recent promotion in May to becoming president and general manager of the team.
There aren’t many former players that are quite as famous from their days in the Little League World Series as famous as Frazier. The phenom of the 1998 Toms River East American Little League All-Star Team, Frazier led the team to the finals where they faced off against the Far East. In that game, he went 4-for-4 with a home run and picked up a win as the team claimed the title. A photo of him standing next to Derek Jeter has since become a staple of any broadcast where Frazier comes up.
Frazier did not have nearly as much notoriety as he worked his way up through the minors, but he made an immediate impact with the Reds. He finished third in the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year voting, was named an All-Star for the first time in 2014 and again in 2015, in a season that also saw him win the Home Run Derby in front of the hometown Cincinnati crowd. Frazier belted 40 home runs for the first time in a season in 2016 with the White Sox. This year, he earned a silver medal for the U.S. Olympic Team in Tokyo as the USA Baseball team fell to Japan 2-0.
One of the most interesting entries on this list, Gooden was a major piece of the 1973 Belmont Heights Little League team that reached the world city and ultimately placed third. There was only one problem: Gooden wasn’t on the team that made it that far. Gooden was only 9 years old at the time, and the rules were that he had to be at least 10. So despite pitching the team to the qualifying spot, he did not get to compete on the big stage.
But Gooden had plenty of chances to shine on an even bigger stage. Gooden was taken fifth overall by the Mets in 1982 and quickly rose to stardom. He debuted in 1984 and was named an All-Star in his first season for the first of what would be four straight seasons named to the NL All-Star team, and earned the Rookie of the Year. The following year, he won the pitching Triple Crown and was named the Cy Young Award winner. He picked up the first of three World Series championships the following year when the Mets beat the Red Sox, and he won two more with the Yankees in 1996 and 2000. Gooden finished his career with a 3.51 ERA and 2,293 strikeouts in 2,800.2 innings.
Before he was the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award, Lynn was a key part of the 1999 Central Brownsburg Little League team. Lynn and his team came away as the champions of the central region, but ultimately fell in pool play as Toms River — this time sans Frazier — reached the semifinal.
But Lynn has since had a chance to add a championship to his athletic resume. In his first season in the majors, he reached the World Series with the Cardinals and added — to this point — his lone ring. The following year he was named an All-Star for the first time. He has since bounced around to the Twins, Yankees and Rangers before he has settled in with the White Sox in what has been his best season to date. He currently has a 2.26 ERA and a 10-3 record over 119.2 innings of work.
One of the most feared sluggers in Orioles’ history, Powell got his first taste of baseball success playing for the Lakeland Little League team in Lakeland, Florida, back in 1954. That team reached the Little League World Series and advanced to the quarterfinals, but was shut down by a stout New York team.
Powell had his revenge, however. In 1966, Powell, then of the Orioles, faced off against the Dodgers and Jim Barbieri, who was a member of the Schenectady, New York, team, and the O’s picked up the four-game sweep to win the World Series. That was the first of two World Series wins for Powell, who also claimed the 1970 championship with Baltimore in the same campaign in which he was named the AL MVP. A four-time All-Star, Powell finished his career with 339 home runs and a .266/.361/.462 slash line and was named to the Orioles Hall of Fame.
Before Sheffield was a feared slugger in Miami, he was a feared hitter for the Belmont Heights Little League team. The group, representing Florida in the 1980 Little League World Series, made the run through the U.S. side of the bracket to reach the final and take on Taiwan. Despite Sheffield setting a then-record for doubles in the tournament with four, Florida fell in the final to Taiwan in a 4-3 loss.
Sheffield went on to become one of the biggest bats in MLB for many years as he finished his career with 467 doubles and 509 home runs to accompany a .292/.393/.514 slash line. Sheffield was named an All-Star nine times in his career, he was named a Silver Slugger five times and he won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997. Connections to BALCO and PEDs, as well as his poor defense, remain some of the main reasons he has not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he will return to the ballot again next year after he received 40.6 percent of the vote in 2021.
Before Sipe became a legend in Cleveland, he was part of a history-making Little League team in El Cajon, California. He and the 1961 Northern Little League team ran through the Little League Wrold Series, winning a pair of games in extra innings before defeating Texas in the final to claim the championship.
It was the gridiron that ultimately called the most to Sipe. Drafted in the 13th round of the 1972 NFL Draft by the Browns, he ultimately became the team’s starter at quarterback in 1976 and started to turn the team around, eventually taking the team to the playoffs in 1980 for the first time since 1972. During that season, he was named NFL MVP after he completed 30 touchdown passes with 4,132 passing yards. He is still the franchise’s leader in passing yards (23,713), passing touchdowns (154) and quarterback wins (57).
Turgeon might have gained some attention in his youth as part of the “Punch-up in Piestany” between Canada and the USSR, but baseball gave him his first shot at stardom. As a member of the Rotary Little League in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, Turgeon was part of Canada’s team in the 1982 Little League World Series that reached the semifinals, but ultimately fell to Taiwan. He played alongside fellow future NHLer Stephane Matteau on the team.
Five years later, Turgeon was drafted first overall by the Sabres to kick off what would be a standout NHL career. He was named to five All-Star teams and received the 1993 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. A prolific goal-scorer, he scored a career-high 58 goals in 1993 and three times scored at least 40 goals in a season. He finished his playing career with 515 goals and 812 assists and is still the NHL player with the most goals to not be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Varitek’s baseball career has often found him playing for championships. That started in 1984 when he and the Altamonte Springs National Little League team made a run to the Little League World Series where they reached the final, but fell 6-2 in the game. Ten years later, he was a member of Georgia Tech, which was making its first-ever College World Series appearance. The team made a run to the final, but lost 13-5 in the final to Oklahoma.
But Varitek will most often be associated for helping break the Curse of the Bambino when he was the catcher for the 2004 Red Sox that won the World Series. He became the second of three players ever to play in each of the three different World Series, coming after Ed Vosberg reached all three in his baseball career. Varitek won a second World Series in 2007 and became an icon in Boston as he finished his career with three All-Star nods, a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and induction into the team Hall of Fame. He tallied 193 home runs and a .256/.341/.435 slash line in his career.
Before Krissy Wendell-Pohl became one of the best women’s hockey players in U.S. history, she was helping the Brooklyn Center Little League from Minnesota reach the Little League World Series in 1994. Wendell-Pohl was the first girl ever to play catcher in the series and she batted fifth for the team that finished third in the American bracket.
Wendell-Pohl would become far more well known for her hockey success, however. Playing for Minnesota, she racked up 104 career points (third-most all-time) as she was both one of college hockey’s most feared offensive facilitators with 43 goals (tied for seventh-most all-time) and 61 assists (third-most all-time). To this day, her seven short-handed goals are tied for the most in NCAA history. She played for two Olympic teams and won a silver in 2002 and a bronze in 2006. Her hockey career earned her a 2019 induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
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