Todd Frazier won a Little League Baseball championship 20 years ago with the Toms River (New Jersey) East American team. The memories of the experience remain strong. There are times he even carries them with him physically.
“Besides baseball, it was the pin trading,” Frazier said when asked about his biggest memories during a press conference the day of the 2018 MLB Little League Classic.
The Classic brought the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies to the Little League Complex in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, during the Aug. 17 games. That evening, the Mets and Phillies played their own game across the river at Bowman Field, a minor league ballpark.
For Frazier,Michael Conforto of the Mets and Scott Kingery of the Phillies, it was a bit of a homecoming. The three major leaguers had all made it to the Little League Baseball World Series and they shared their memories and experiences in a press conference.
“I love pin trading,” Frazier said. “I was showing Michael my pin collection the other day. That kind of brings everybody together.”
Although each is at least a dozen years removed from making it to the LLWS, the three major leaguers each had a distinct memory, separate from playing the games.
“Just coming here and being with all the other kids,” Conforto said. “(There’s also) kind of mingling with the kids from other parts of the world and you’re all there kind of together in the barracks, the cafeteria and the game room. That was really the best part of it for me.”
Kingery recalls his first look at the complex and Lamade Stadium with the Ahwatukee, Arizona, team. It’s something that has stuck with him since he appeared in 2006.
“For me, the thing that sticks out most is stepping off the bus and seeing the field for the first time,” he said. “It’s just special seeing that field for the first time and knowing you’re going to get to play a couple games on that field.”
This year’s visit was a chance for Frazier to connect his past and potential future. Frazier’s teammates from the 1998 world champions joined him on the Lamade Stadium field during a pregame ceremony honoring Frazier, Conforto and Kingery.
“It was great to see everybody and the coaches, as well,” Frazier said. “I know the memories are great for them, too. It’s crazy how the time has passed. I felt like we were about to go in that dugout again today and play for the championship. It was really cool.”
Frazier made the trip to Williamsport with his family. He got a chance to experience the Little League World Series from a different perspective while also thinking back on old memories.
“I was up early,” said Frazier, who made the trip to Pennsylvania before his current teammates arrived this year. “We got after it. I wanted to show my kids and my family what their father did back in 1998 and hopefully one day we can get back here, whether it’s to play or just to come here on our own.”
Kingery has made 79 starts at shortstop and has played every position other than catcher and first base as a 24-year-old rookie with the Phillies. He enjoyed his return trip.
“All I’ve seen today is smiling faces,” Kingery said. “For my teammates, it’s just cool to come and watch Little League Baseball because it takes everyone back.”
Conforto, a 25-year-old outfielder in his fourth Major League season, joins Ed Vosberg and Jason Varitek as the only players to make the Little League, College and professional World Series. The first of those steps came in 2004 with Redmond North, Washington.
“That’s what’s special about having this experience that we’ve been through,” Conforto said. “It’s kind of our first exposure to playing in front of big crowds and on TV.”
Televisions in Major League clubhouses are often tuned to the Little League World Series for 10 days each August. Frazier said he makes sure of it in his.
The veteran third baseman said it’s OK for the little leaguers here now to dream that it will not be their last time playing on television or in front of big crowds. Frazier hopes the major leaguers can continue to inspire them in that pursuit.
The MLB Little League Classic assists in making that connection between the game’s best professionals and those who make up the best teams of youngsters. This year’s game took place in front of a stadium packed full of Little League players. While the Mets won easily, 8-2, it was a memorable experience for all in attendance.
“We have to do this more often,” Frazier said. “It gives these kids hopes and dreams of maybe someday become a big leaguer.”
From GameChanger and Tom Robinson.
Check out other articles about the Little League World Series here.