Just as the calendar was about to flip to May 2020, Little League International canceled the Little League World Series for the first time in the event’s 73-year history due to growing concerns of the coronavirus pandemic.
Scheduled to return in August 2021, the tournament has a rich history of showcasing some of the world’s most talented young baseball players to ever play the game.
While many grow up and move on from sports, 54 players have pursued their love for baseball and followed a path from the LLWS to MLB. Here are 5 little league superstars who eventually turned pro.
Before he made a name for himself smashing 509 home runs over 20 MLB seasons, Gary Sheffield helped his Belmont Heights team from Tampa Bay, Florida, reach the 1980 Little League World Series championship game against Chinese Taipei.
Sheffield, who pitched for his little league team, remembers watching the Taiwan players take batting practice. “They were hitting balls farther than I had ever seen,” he recalled. While Taiwan would go on to defeat Belmont Heights 4-3, Sheffield went on to have a successful career in Major League Baseball.
Prior to helping the Boston Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino by winning the 2004 World Series, former catcher Jason Varitek played shortstop, first base, and catcher for the Altamonte Springs, Florida, Little League team in 1984.
Varitek led his team to the Little League championship game where they lost to Seoul, South Korea 6-2. Following his LLWS stint, Varitek went on to reach the College World Series title game with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. He is one of only two people in history to play in the LLWS, CWS, and MLB World Series.
Before capturing the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year award, L.A. Dodgers first baseman and outfielder Cody Bellinger participated in the Little League World Series in 2007.
The 11-year-old Manny Ramirez fan led his team from Chandler, Arizona, to the United States final, where they lost to Georgia. During a tournament game against Maryland, Bellinger went 3-for-3 with a home run and two singles.
Before finding success with the Baltimore Orioles from 2013-2016, second baseman Jonathan Schoop was instrumental in bringing a Little League World Series title home to the island country of Curaçao.
Starting the game at shortstop and batting third, Schoop went 2-for-3 with an RBI before moving to the mound to record the final two outs. Curaçao won the LLWS title over Thousand Oaks, California, 5-2.
Schoop, who’s been injured and bounced around from team to team over the last four seasons, said his time in the LLWS “was the best experience of my life.”
Before current free agent infielder Todd Frazier debuted for the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, he led his Little League team from Toms River, New Jersey, to the 1998 Little League World Series.
Not only did his squad defeat their opponent from Japan to win the 52nd LLWS 12-9, Frazier had one of the greatest performances in tournament history. He went 4-for-4 with a lead-off home run and was also the winning pitcher.