Red Sox, O's meet in Little League Classic tonight

August 21st, 2022

BALTIMORE -- Pins will be exchanged. Hills will be sled down. Pens will be put to their autographing might.

The Orioles and Red Sox are set to face off in Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League Classic, which will take place tonight at 7 p.m. ET and air live on ESPN, after spending the morning prior with Little Leaguers, and it’s not clear who’s more eager: the Major Leaguers or the kids.

“I know the kids are going to be excited to get to meet big leaguers,” said Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, himself a product of Little League. “I know when I was a kid, I would have loved to be able to meet a big leaguer and to be able to share time with them, and I think that’s going to be a great opportunity.”

“That’s going to be a cool experience,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “I've never been there, but I've watched the Little League World Series since I was a kid. I remember that Saturday afternoon, I couldn't wait to watch growing up, and to be able to go and see what that's all about. It's going to be cool for everybody.”

This year’s Little League Classic is the fifth annual to be hosted at Muncy Bank Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field, but the first for each organization. Right-hander Nick Pivetta of the Red Sox is scheduled to oppose righty Dean Kremer for Baltimore -- nearly the entirety of each roster bringing with them memories of Little Leaguing past.

For some, the trip is personal. Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s father, Jose Manuel, founded the Caguas Little League in Puerto Rico in 1969 and presided over it for years. For Cora, this trip is a return to some family ties, something his brother, Mets third-base coach Joey Cora, got to experience twice with the Pirates.

“For us, Little League is our passion,” Alex Cora said. “Dad, he founded the league in 1969, and there’s been a lot of big leaguers that came from our program. But like my mom says, a lot of professionals came out of our program, and that’s the most important thing. If you ask my dad, probably he’ll be more proud of them than the handful of big leaguers we actually produced. That’s what Little League is all about. Structure and discipline and everything that comes with it to become a professional.”

For others, the opportunity to venture just three hours north of Baltimore to Williamsport on Sunday morning will be the chance to both pay back and pay forward to the next generation of big leaguers. For a few, it’ll be the chance to live out their own dreams.

“When I was playing Little League, I remember when I saw a shooting star or blew on a dandelion, that was the wish -- I wanted to play in Williamsport,” said Orioles infielder Tyler Nevin, a product of Poway National Little League in Southern California.

The day will have a special meaning for Orioles pitcher Spenser Watkins, who’s been to Bowman Field as a Minor Leaguer and now spends his offseasons coaching kids back home in his native Arizona. His Little League days were shared with his father, Dave, his coach for nearly all of his teams growing up.

The lessons he learned, and that will be shared on Sunday?

“It's supposed to be fun. You're supposed to be smiling and enjoying it when you’re out there,” said Watkins, a product of Cactus Little League in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Pretty hard if you don't.”

Baltimore outfielder Austin Hays is prepared for the questions, of which he once had many. The Orioles may be locked in a pennant chase, but Sunday will be a moment to sit back and enjoy the innocence of baseball once more.

“That’ll be a cool experience to see what kind of questions they have for us and what kind of cool stuff they got for us,” Hays said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Questions more rough than the press?

“Kids can be brutal,” Hays laughed, “so we'll see.”

Past winners of the event include the Pirates (2017, over Cardinals), Mets (2018, over Phillies), Cubs (2019, over Pirates) and Cleveland (2021, over Angels).

The day's festivities will also include a trio of statue dedications, honoring Cy Young, Jackie Robinson and former President George W. Bush, an active supporter of Little League Baseball.