Get to know your Indians as 12-year-olds

August 21st, 2021

CLEVELAND -- The MLB Little League Classic not only gives Little Leaguers the chance to meet some of their heroes, but it gives the big leaguers a chance to reminisce about the time in their lives when they fell in love with baseball. They, too, had a dream at 12 years old to become a Major League baseball player, proving that they once had many similarities to the group of Little Leaguers in Williamsport, Pa. sat down with a handful of Indians players to recreate what their baseball card would’ve looked like when they were 12 years old. Here’s what they came up with.

Austin Hedges
“Sports. Competing. Give him something to compete at, ping pong, pool, darts, baseball, basketball, whatever, something to compete at. He loves competing.”
Nickname: “I didn’t really [have one]. I was Austin for a long time. Not really until high school did I become Hedgey.”
Size: “I was probably 5-foot-4, maybe 5-foot-5. Probably a buck 40.”
Position: “I played everywhere, every position. I always loved catching. But I pitched quite a bit, played some shortstop, played some outfield. I just liked being out there. I loved baseball.”
Favorite Major Leaguer: “Pudge Rodriguez. I always loved Pudge. I liked Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez. I just loved catching and [Pudge] was the guy. He was winning MVPs and threw guys out and stuff, so that’s what I always liked.”
Favorite food: “I just loved spaghetti. My mom made great spaghetti. That was always a good one.”
Hobbies: “In my free time with my friends, we played sports. We’d maybe play some basketball or football, but a lot of Wiffle Ball games, baseball games, baseball video games. … I played flag football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer.”

Franmil Reyes
“Just a fun guy following a big dream. I would say like I see my mom going through a lot of stuff, so I kind of grew up seeing that and having that goal to become a professional baseball player just to help my mom and my family.”
Nickname: “If I would’ve had La Mole back then, it would’ve been that.”
Size: “I don’t know because I started growing right around 13 years old. I wasn’t little, but I think we all knew I was going to be taller than all the guys, but I wasn’t like that tall at that age.”
Position: “Shortstop every time. It’s just like growing up Juan Uribe was the only Major Leaguer in our town at that time. In the offseason, you always saw him at the baseball field taking ground balls at shortstop. Just growing up watching him, everybody in our town when they grew up they wanted to be like him.”
Favorite Major Leaguer: “Uribe and Vladimir Guerrero. Right after the season, they used to bring a lot of stuff for the kids back home: batting gloves, cleats, bats, all the baseball things they needed, they were donating to the kids back there. So when I was little, I knew that at some point I would be making my Major League debut. And trying to be just like them kind of motivated me.”
Hobbies: “We lived right next to the beach. People there don’t go often because when you grow up on the beach, that’s all you see. So people from other towns, they cause more intention to go to the beach. So, every time my mom said the whole family is going to the beach or the river to cook, those were my favorite days.”
Food: “My mother’s arepas. It’s just different. The Venezuelan ones are a little bit salty and they use with it meat and avocado and different stuff. But my mom’s is sweet. It’s like a piece of cake.”

Zach Plesac
“I would probably say just a wild kid. I was always full of energy, freaking out all the time, like bouncing around off things, diving all over the place.”
Nickname: “Not really. I never really had a nickname growing up. Just always Zach.”
Size: “I was little. I was definitely really, really small. I remember wearing my hat like really low and my ears would poof out. I would curve my bill. I was just really little. I always wore my pants up. [Making me look taller] was the goal -- and faster.”
Position: “Shortstop. It was because it had the most action. It was the most fun. I was a junior in high school [when I started pitching full time].”
Favorite Major Leaguer: “Yeah, it was always Derek Jeter just because he was super smooth. I just wanted to be as cool as him.”
Favorite food: “I’d say like a hot dog and pizza. Ketchup on the hot dog.”
Hobbies: “I played other sports. I played basketball and soccer. I also inline skated in middle school. From sixth to eighth grade I had inline skates and I would go to the park and all the schools that were around me and I would jump off the staircases and stuff.”

Nick Wittgren
“I would’ve been mad boring. I would’ve said I love to play any sport and eat a bunch of food. That literally would’ve been it. That basically sums it up today, too.”
Nickname: “It’s always been Witty. Easiest way to shorten it.”
Size: “I think I was pretty average. I definitely wasn’t the biggest in the group; I wasn’t the smallest. We had a few guys that we always joked hit their growth spurt in fifth grade and then just through high school never grew.”
Position: “Shortstop was my favorite. Shortstop and pitcher. … I walked up to my [new] coach [in Indiana] and he asked what positions I play and I said short and pitcher and he goes, ‘Of course you do, everyone does.’ So, he stuck me out in right. Then, the first game I went 4-for-4 with four doubles and hosed a guy out at first on a base hit to right and he was like, ‘You want to start the next game?’ And I said, 'sure,' and I threw a shutout. Next thing you know I was playing short and pitching the rest of the time.”
Favorite Major Leaguer: “Vlad. Because I was out in California, it was the Angels. He just took hacks. He didn’t get cheated on any swing.”
Favorite food: “I’m going with snacks after a game. We’d get Gushers and sometimes the moms would freeze Capri Suns and show up late in coolers, so basically after the game we’d have Capri Sun popsicles.”
Hobbies: “Everything. Skateboard, skate, bike, we’d play basketball, anything. … We’d play five-on-five basketball tournaments, we’d do seven-on-seven football tournaments in the middle of the road.”

Triston McKenzie
“El Capitan. I was the Doc. At that point in time I wanted to be the guy. I wanted to be the shortstop that guys looked to. I wanted to be Derek Jeter.”
Nickname: "I went by Doc at a young age. On my 12U travel team, we had BP shirts and all our BP shirts had our name and we had to pick a nickname. I wanted to be a doctor. My coach from that team still calls me Doc to this day."
Size: “I would say I was above average. I wasn’t super, super tall. I was one of the taller kids though, always. I was always one of the taller, skinny ones.”
Position: Short. I mean technically speaking, if anyone is going to [see this], I’m still a shortstop. But I played short at that age. I feel like at that point, I was playing a little bit of everything.
Favorite Major Leaguer: "Derek Jeter, hands down. … It’s like he’s the captain of his team, which was the New York Yankees and was a powerhouse at that time. And then on top of that, you never hear his name in any drama off the field, he’s very mild mannered in terms of how he interacts with the media and fans. I think that’s just the epitome of -- at that age -- who I wanted to be as a baseball player."
Favorite food: "Pizza. Anything Italian. The spot I went -- I know the owners very well -- Mario the Baker. … So I’d get chicken parmesan or I’d get pizza. Hands down, if I wanted to get food, that would be it."
Hobbies: "I played a lot of video games and I ran around a ton. Probably more than I should’ve. I should’ve stayed inside and ate more."

Shane Bieber
"If I was 12, I wouldn’t have [written out a bio]. I was too shy, so I would’ve opted out of writing about myself."
Nickname: "It was already Biebs before [Justin Bieber] was on the scene. The Bieber family in Little League was always referred to as Biebs: my dad, my brother, myself."
Size: "I think I was right in the middle. We definitely had some big boys and smaller guys, but I think I was right in the middle. Probably a little bit swaying toward the taller side, but evenly sized and an athletic build."
Position: "I was playing shortstop and third base, mostly. I wasn’t really pitching until high school. Short [was my favorite]. I think that’s just Little League for you. Short and pitcher."
Favorite Major Leaguer: "It was probably Vladimir Guerrero. I was an Angels fan. I was a 12-year-old as an Angels fan and I got to watch that guy go up to bat and hit for five ABs a game. That’s an absolute joy. If I can go back to that and watch him take more at-bats I would. It’s nice we got his son doing it for us."
Favorite food: "Pizza. Pepperoni."
Hobbies: "Surfing, skateboarding. [I was a big surfer] when I was younger. It’s a lot harder when I took four years off and gained 50 pounds. It’s a lot harder to move around on that thing. Going to the beach."