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Matheny hopes LL Classic fosters 'passion'

St. Louis manager discusses historic event between Cards and Bucs
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

PITTSBURGH -- The story of how close his Little League team from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, came to qualifying for the Little League World Series many years ago is one that Mike Matheny has enjoyed retelling several times leading up to Sunday's Little League Classic between the Cardinals and Pirates.

Matheny gets that trip now, albeit in a different capacity, but it is fitting that he's one of the two managers involved in this jewel event for Major League Baseball. Matheny, whose formative years were consumed by his involvement in sports, has been an advocate for youth sports and changes he believes are necessary within those settings.

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PITTSBURGH -- The story of how close his Little League team from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, came to qualifying for the Little League World Series many years ago is one that Mike Matheny has enjoyed retelling several times leading up to Sunday's Little League Classic between the Cardinals and Pirates.

Matheny gets that trip now, albeit in a different capacity, but it is fitting that he's one of the two managers involved in this jewel event for Major League Baseball. Matheny, whose formative years were consumed by his involvement in sports, has been an advocate for youth sports and changes he believes are necessary within those settings.

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Matheny took his stance public in 2015 by authoring a book that evolved from a letter he first wrote to a group of parents who had asked him to coach their sons' baseball team after his big league career had ended. In it, Matheny detailed his beliefs on how the team needed to be run and the appropriate role for parents.

The parents eventually accepted Matheny's terms, and Matheny served as a coach for the team until accepting the job as Cardinals manager. His book, 'Matheny Manifesto,' later became a New York Times bestseller.

"If you have a platform and you can maybe do something that's going to impact people in a positive way," Matheny said, "then do it."

Video: Little League team wishes Wong luck in LL Classic

Matheny sees this trip to Williamsport through a similar lens.

"Any touch points you can have, these could be some of those moments for these kids," Matheny said. "Whether they make it onto college baseball, whether they make it onto the big leagues, we can help grow passion and love for the game. We're always up for doing whatever is good for the game. This is grassroots marketing at its finest, where we're trying to continue to grow the borders of interest in our sport.

"We all fell in love with the game and started dreaming about playing on a field like this at the age of these kids we're going to go see in Williamsport. I hope there are some kids that we can encourage and maybe give a different look of the game and create some lifelong baseball fans that might not have been there otherwise."

The travel and logistics of playing a meaningful game against a division opponent in a town with a population of approximately 30,000 people will create some added complications. But Matheny said he's hopeful that his players embrace the opportunity to make an impact through interacting with Little League players before showcasing their skills in front of them.

Tonight's game will be played in front of an invitation-only crowd of about 2,500 fans -- including players and families of the 16 teams competing in the LLWS -- at Historic Bowman Field. It will be the lowest capacity crowd ever for a Major League game.

"I think it's something new and different, just like when you go to these different countries and play," Matheny said. "I think it's going to be loud, and I think it's going to be a little more intimate. You just never know how this is going to pay off."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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