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Cards relish time with Little Leaguers

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Before the Cardinals settled into the clubhouse at historic Bowman Field for Sunday's Little League Classic against the Pirates, they spent the morning interacting with the other teams of baseball players in town.

Those were, of course, the Little League World Series participants, many of whom had the opportunity to shoot selfies, snag autographs or play in front of the Major League players they'd love to become. In total, the Cardinals spent about two hours at the Little League World Series complex.

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WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Before the Cardinals settled into the clubhouse at historic Bowman Field for Sunday's Little League Classic against the Pirates, they spent the morning interacting with the other teams of baseball players in town.

Those were, of course, the Little League World Series participants, many of whom had the opportunity to shoot selfies, snag autographs or play in front of the Major League players they'd love to become. In total, the Cardinals spent about two hours at the Little League World Series complex.

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Here are some sights, scenes and highlights from that portion of the team's day:

The arrival

After the Cardinals' plane touched down at the Williamsport Regional Airport around 11:30 a.m. ET, former LLWS participants Lance Lynn and Randal Grichuk led the team onto the tarmac. There, they were greeted by players from Hills Little League, representing Australia, and Walla Walla Valley (Wash.) Little League from the Northwest Region.

Tweet from @LangoschMLB: After greeting the LLWS teams and exchanging hats, #STLCards load onto buses. Lynn, Wong, Fowler and Martinez are riding with the kids. pic.twitter.com/mVWfN0bqYe

Major Leaguers and Little Leaguers exchanged hats and high-fives before four members of the Cardinals -- Dexter Fowler, Kolten Wong, Lynn and Carlos Martinez -- hopped onto the bus full of Little League players for a raucous ride over to the LLWS Complex.

Wong played the role of disc jockey, blasting music to initiate an impromptu dance party. Fowler and Martinez hung near the front of the bus, snapping selfies to capture the scene. Lynn was nestled near the back, surrounded by wide-eyed Little League players.

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: The fun bus just went to another level. Australia getting its groove on. @MLB @LasMayores @PlayBall #MLBLittleLeagueClassic pic.twitter.com/fS0y3k9l8m

Welcome party

Eagerly awaiting the arrival of that bus were players from Los Bravos de Pontezuela Little League, based out of Santiago, Dominican Republic. They quickly spotted their countryman, Martinez. Predictably, Martinez's first order of business was to shoot a few photos. He gathered the kids for the perfect shot.

Tweet from @Tsunamy27: #usssss #usssss #usssss #blessed #blessed #blessed #playersweekend klk con klk #dominicanteam��� https://t.co/ym3SdSfg9a

Lining the walkway from the parking lot to Howard J. Lamade Stadium were hundreds more fans eagerly awaiting the chance to see Major League players up close. Wong and Fowler both stopped to sign dozens of autographs.

A tasty treat

Tommy Pham's first order of business as players settled into seats at Lamade Stadium was to find a respite from the sun. And what better way to cool down, he figured, than snow cones?

But knowing that he'd shouldn't go buy just one, Pham found a stadium worker and put in an order for 200 snow cones. He and Martinez split the cost.

"And sure enough I see my teammates taking some of them," Pham joked afterward.

Indeed, the cups of Italian ice were enjoyed by Little Leaguers and Major Leaguers alike. Pham snagged two for himself -- one a strawberry lemonade flavor, the other blue raspberry.

Tweet from @LangoschMLB: Tommy Pham ordered 200 snow cones for the kids. They're being passed out now. #STLCards pic.twitter.com/lvnfvQKHsh

As they ate their snow cones, players and kids sat alongside one another to watch the conclusion of a game between teams from the Southwest and New England regions. Texas natives Zach Duke and Grichuk were especially excited to see the Southwest team from Lufkin (Texas) earn the 6-3 victory.

International connections

Carlos Martinez wasn't the only Cardinal to connect with players from his home country. So, too, did Jose Martinez (Venezuela) and Seung Hwan Oh (South Korea). Both players spent time talking with the kids and offering a few words of advice.

"It brings back memories from back in those days," Oh later said.

As he watched the Korean team score early in their game against Japan, Oh jumped from his seat to cheer.

Martinez connected with the Venezuelan team and seemed especially moved to see them participating in the LLWS given the political and economic turmoil going on back home. Martinez left them with a message of perseverance and later sought them out at Sunday's Little League Classic to give every one another high five.

Mascot adopted

Before the Cardinals departed the LLWS Complex, they went back to Lamade Stadium to help with introductions before the game between the Southeast and West region winners. They brought with them an inflatable kangaroo, which someone (identity still unknown) had taken from the Australian team.

Luke Voit took charge in carrying the kangaroo around.

Tweet from @LangoschMLB: #STLCards kangaroo. pic.twitter.com/nlnAfW3FDf

Voit later carted the kangaroo -- which he dubbed the team's "Australian Fredbird" -- to historic Bowman Field, where it found a new home.

"It's something fun and something we can take to put in our dugout," Voit said. "We taped it down, put some seeds and gums in its pouch."

He plans to bring it home to St. Louis on the team flight.

Return visit

The Cardinals ended their time at the LLWS Complex with a ceremony that brought the experience full circle for Lynn (1999 Brownsburg (Ind.) Little League) and Grichuk (2003 and '04 Lamar (Texas) National Little League). The LLWS alumni, along with Pittsburgh's Max Moroff, were presented with the team jersey they wore as a LLWS participant.

Tweet from @LittleLeague: Lance Lynn, Randal Grichuk, Max Moroff each presented with their #LLWS jersey. #MLBLittleLeagueClassic #throwback pic.twitter.com/rM7GNqFMbV

Lynn joked that his jersey was "too small" to have ever fit him, but he plans to hang the framed piece in his home.

"I haven't seen that jersey in a long time, about 18 years," Lynn said. "It's pretty cool."

The three players each threw a ceremonial first pitch, after which the teams filed out of the ballpark. Fowler lingered behind the others, walked to the mound and asked an MLB official to snap his photo.

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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