They played the second annual MLB Little League Classic game last night at picturesque Bowman Field in Williamsport, PA, home to the Phillies’ low A short-season minor league affiliate, the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League. How fitting it was to have two teams representing New York and Pennsylvania.
From the original announcement: “Historic Bowman Field, in which Major League Baseball and the State of Pennsylvania invested a multi-million dollar renovation prior to the 2017 MLB Little League Classic, opened in 1926. It is the second oldest Minor League ballpark in the United States. More than 560 Major Leaguers, including Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Bill Mazeroski, Jim Rice and Jim Bunning, have worn a professional baseball uniform for Williamsport.”
One of the cliches in baseball at the professional level is that players have to find a way to keep the game fun, as was evidenced in the social media bond of Rhys Hoskins and Big Al sharing their love of hitting dingers. As much as a business as it has become, it still is at its most fundamental level a game. So it was great fun seeing the Met’s starting rotation spending time in the stands during the game sitting the section with the little league team from Staten Island.
But aside from having fun, and ahead of the business element of the game, the second most important lesson for the young kids is sportsmanship. The brotherhood and collegiality that extends to each player, transcending race, color, or religion. This was in evidence during the opening ceremonies when the game ball was thrown in from center field in a chain from one child to another, each representing one of the little league teams, until it reached the Phillies’ Scott Kingery at home plate.
Perhaps the finest touch of the evening was the bookending of players from the Phillies. Mets and Little Leaguers, ringing the diamond prior to the game, followed by the Phillies and Mets shaking hands after the end of the evening, as it customary in the Little Leagues. One wishes there was a way to bottle that international feeling of sportsmanship, and sprinkle it liberally when tensions arise among human beings off the playing field.