With August nearly half over, it means the 2018 Little League World Series is almost set to begin. For the last 70-plus years, baseball teams from all over the world have traveled to Williamsport, a small town in central Pennsylvania, to try and claim their place in history – though it has been all Japan in recent years, winning five of the last eight tournaments.
More importantly, the LLWS teaches youngsters the finer points of playing the game, including how to be gracious in victory or defeat. The skills learned on that diamond can prove beneficial in striving to become a professional athlete and with so many kids participating over the years, there have been quite a few notable names to participate. Sure, there have been plenty to grow up and spend time in Major League Baseball but there have also been some that transitioned to other sports and had successful careers – and we thought it’d be fun to look at some little leaguers who went on to become famous.
Austin Dillon: NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series
Earlier this year, Dillon won the 2018 Daytona 500 for the first time in his career, an accomplishment that’ll look good next to his Rookie of the Year awards. In his eight seasons as the No. 3 driver in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, Dillion has emerged as one of the sport’s more popular drivers and hopes to turn that into a successful career full of championships. But, back in 2002, the LLWS wasn’t as kind to the second baseman – who also hit ninth – and his team from Clemmons, North Carolina. North Carolina went 0-3 and was eventually eliminated, despite battling the eventual winners, who hailed from just outside Louisville, Kentucky, to a tough 4-2 loss.
Todd Frazier: New York Mets Third Basemen
A solid contributor for the Mets this season, Frazier has proven he can contribute pop to any lineup. With 185 home runs and 534 runs batted in during his career, the two-time All-Star even won the Home Run Derby back in 2015, however, his biggest home run might have just been way back in the 1998 LLWS. Frazier smashed a lead-off home run for his Toms River, New Jersey team and closed out the game as the winning pitcher, striking out a Japan player to give the United States its first championship in five years.
Jason Varitek: Former Boston Red Sox Catcher
Success seemed to follow Varitek wherever he went. As we all remember, Varitek was an important piece to the Red Sox’s 2004 World Series championship, which lifted an 86-year curse. He went on to win another World Series with Boston in 2007, while also being named the third captain in team history – and let’s not forget that he caught a MLB record four no-hitters over the course of his career. Varitek played for Altamonte, Florida in the 1984 LLWS, a team which lost to a South Korean team in the final. He remains one of just two players – Ed Vosberg being the other – to play in the championship round of each of the LLWS, College World Series and the World Series.
Chris Drury: United States Hockey Hall of Famer
For 12 seasons, Drury put together some solid numbers in the National Hockey League, taking home the Calder Trophy as the best rookie and a Stanley Cup championship as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. In his later years, Drury even donned the “C” as captain of the New York Rangers, before being selected into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. But long before that, Drury was the pitcher for his Trumbull, Connecticut team that took home the 1989 LLWS title, beating a team from Taiwan 5-2. The icing on the cake is that he was even named Most Valuable Player. If you ever visit the museum in Williamsport, you can see some of Drury’s baseball and hockey memorabilia on display.
Gary Sheffield: Nine-Time MLB All-Star
For a significant stretch of his nearly two-decade career, Sheffield was one of the most feared hitters in baseball, with an unbelievably potent swing. Sheffield racked up nine All-Star appearances, won the World Series in 1997 as a member of the Florida Marlins, was the N.L. Batting Champion in 1992 and won the Silver Slugger Award an impressive five times. While the argument could be made that he has the numbers to be in the Hall of Fame, it remains to be seen if that’ll happen. Back in 1980, however, Sheffield participated in the LLWS with Tampa, Florida – a group that made it to the final before losing to a team from Taiwan. Derek Bell, another former MLBer, was also on the team.
Chad Pennington: Former New York Jets Quarterback
Pennington was instrumental to the success of the Jets in the early 2000s, taking the team to the Divisional Round of the postseason twice in three years. Over the course of his 11-year career with the Jets and the Miami Dolphins, Pennington amassed close to 18,000 yards passing and won the Comeback Player of the Year Award twice – in 2006 and 2008. He finished his career with a solid passer rating of 90.1, some of which was thanks to being the 47th quarterback to throw a “perfect game.” And long before football, Pennington played in the 1991 LLWS with Hamilton, Ohio – a team that was unable to make it out of the quarter-final round.
Cody Bellinger: Los Angeles Dodgers Outfielder
Last season, Bellinger made his debut with the Dodgers and put up some serious numbers, blasting 39 home runs and driving-in 97. When the season was finished, a season in which he was named an All-Star, Bellinger helped lead his team to a World Series appearance before being named N.L. Rookie of the Year. While it’s certainly impressive, some might have seen it coming. In 2007, Bellinger played in the LLWS for Chandler, Arizona which finished 2-1 before a quick exit in the quarter-final round to a Georgia team that would go on to beat Japan for the championship.