On a beautiful day in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, four Little League World Series games gave way to an evening of major league fun. The Cubs beat the Pirates 7–1 in the third annual Little League Classic after the players and managers spent Sunday cheering on teams from around the world.
First, the Asia-Pacific South Korea team beat the Caribbean Region team from Curacao 4–0. The Southeast Region team from Virginia defeated the Midwest Region team from Minnesota 11–0. Japan won over Mexico 5–0, and the West Region’s Hawaii team beat the Mid-Atlantic Region’s New Jersey team 6–0. (The game finished Monday after being suspended due to rain.)
The Pirates arrived first to cheer on the Little Leaguers in the Virginia-Minnesota game. Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell reminisced about playing when he was a kid. “I can’t forget the chance we had and the friendships that we created,” he said. “I still reach out today…and I still go back and see them during the offseason.”
Minnesota’s Maddy Freking (above) is the 19th girl to ever play in the LLWS, the sixth to ever pitch in Williamsport, and the first to play since Mo’ne Davis did in 2014. Her team is 1–1 and faces an elimination game early this week. Said Freking of playing in the tournament, “I think it’s an amazing feeling and it’s just an honor.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred watched the Virginia-Minnesota and Japan-Mexico games from the stands. When asked what his favorite part of the job was, he smiled and responded, “It’s the best job in the world. When you think about it, I’m working today. What could be more fun than to come here to Williamsport to see part of the Little League World Series and then a major league game tonight?”
Clint Hurdle, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager, joked that managing a professional team is “just like managing a Little League team; it’s like herding cats. You are just trying to keep them all together and keep them on the field playing hard.”
The Cubs cheered on the teams from Japan and Mexico. Said Chicago manager Joe Maddon of the atmosphere at the LLWS, “It’s very exciting for me. We won the 2016 World Series, and it feels a lot like that.”
Added third baseman Kris Bryant (below), “This place is awesome, and it brings back a lot of really great memories for me—with my neighbors, my brothers, everybody I grew up with. To see the pure joy and happiness, it’s refreshing. Just spending time with [the players], seeing how happy they are…that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we are here for.”
A crowd of 2,503 saw Bryant’s Cubs beat the Pirates. Before the game began, Angelica Hale, a star from America’s Got Talent who is an Atlanta Braves and Ronald Acuna Jr. fan, sang the national anthem. “The Little League World Series is literally one of the biggest things,” she said afterward. “For me to be able to sing the national anthem here, it really is an honor. And to be singing alongside all of the Little League champions and of course the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs—that was amazing!”
Chicago’s Nicholas Castellanos hit a home run in the top of the first inning, and by the end of the fifth, the Cubs had scored seven runs.
The evening was filled with fun interactive games with the Little League players! The MLB stars definitely had a blast while making many kids’ dreams come true, as players like Cubs pitcher Steve Cishek and Pirates pitcher Chris Archer sat with the kids for a few innings during the game.
“The most important thing is really to stick together when things get tough,” Theo Epstein, president of the Cubs, said while watching one of the Little League games earlier in the day. “Baseball is a game where there’s a lot of failure; even the best hitters in the world fail seven out of 10 times. That’s when you really find out about yourself and about your team. It can really teach you to stick together, lean on each other—usually the teams that stick together do really well in the end.”
And that’s what the Little League World Series is all about.
The tournament continues this week on ESPN and ABC. Check out the bracket on littleleague.com, and don’t forget to watch the championship game this Sunday, August 25, at 3 p.m. on ABC!