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Bellinger remembers his Arizona roots

Cody Bellinger's rise to stardom began in the Little League World Series
MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz -- He's a Big Leaguer now, coming off a World Series appearance and a Rookie of the Year Award, but Cody Bellinger's first big-stage moment came way back in 2007, when he and his Chandler, Ariz., team advanced to the Little League Baseball World Series U.S. Championship Game.

Bellinger's Little League squad -- which played its home games only around 40 miles from the Dodgers' Spring Training home -- lost that game to the eventual world champions from Georgia, but he says that experience propelled him on the path to the Major Leagues. He has already set the National League record for home runs by a rookie and is established as the starting first baseman for the reigning 2017 National League champions.

GLENDALE, Ariz -- He's a Big Leaguer now, coming off a World Series appearance and a Rookie of the Year Award, but Cody Bellinger's first big-stage moment came way back in 2007, when he and his Chandler, Ariz., team advanced to the Little League Baseball World Series U.S. Championship Game.

Bellinger's Little League squad -- which played its home games only around 40 miles from the Dodgers' Spring Training home -- lost that game to the eventual world champions from Georgia, but he says that experience propelled him on the path to the Major Leagues. He has already set the National League record for home runs by a rookie and is established as the starting first baseman for the reigning 2017 National League champions.

Who was the first person you talked to after finding out that you were named the NL Rookie of the Year, and what did you say?

MLB Network was there, and we had a bunch of family there at the house. I think the first to come up was my dad (Clay, who played for the Yankees for three seasons); he gave me a hug, that was really special having him there.

Could you find any similarities in playing in the MLB World Series after making it to the Little League World Series 10 years earlier?

No, it wasn't even close, honestly. The World Series was just wild.

If you had to ballpark-guess, how many autographs did you sign in Williamsport compared to during last year's MLB World Series?

A lot less in Little League. We did sign autographs, but it was mostly local Pennsylvania kids coming out as we walked back to our dorms. Not even close to up here. I think I just printed my name, but it was cool. It makes you really feel like a Big Leaguer.

Video: World Series Gm5: Bellinger's bat ignites for Dodgers

Can you remember anything specific about any of your LLWS home runs?

I hit one, it was left-center, it was in the first game so it was cool to get it out of the way. We were a good team and I was the little guy on the team, so it was cool to pop one out of there. I was younger, and I was tiny.

What was your favorite postgame treat as a kid, and how about now?

My favorite postgame treat as a kid was the sliced oranges. We had those when I played soccer, too, at halftime. Fresh oranges with the Powerade. Now I just go for something sugary: ice cream, candy, for sure.

You did some pitching in high school. Do you ever miss taking the mound?

I'm really curious to see how hard I could throw now, see if I have velocity now or lost it. I don't really miss pitching in games, and I don't think my arm could hold up. I would still love to try the radar gun, just not pitch on a consistent basis. I'd love to go and try to fire up the gun, though.

How did your family's baseball background help you as a kid?

A lot. Just because I was in the locker room a lot when I was a little kid. Just talking to professional athletes and just seeing what they do. That was cool, and I still remember a lot of stuff from then.

What advice would you give to kids who want to be like you?

It's a game. Have fun, honestly. We get caught up in the moment up here, as you should, and it's easy to, but Little League Baseball is just a bunch of kids having fun, enjoying the game no matter how they're doing.

What can Major Leaguers learn from Little Leaguers?

Just that. Have fun. It's a game to be enjoyed. For us, it's also a business -- it's a job. But you play better when you're having fun.

Video: Bellinger talks winning ROY at the BBWAA dinner

How cool would it be if you got the chance to play in a future MLB Little League Classic in Williamsport, like the Pirates and Cardinals did last August?

That would be cool to go back and be there as a Big Leaguer, instead of imagining being a Big Leaguer. I actually watched that, and it was a pretty cool thing they set up. I couldn't have imagined what it would have been like if there had been a Major League team there when I was a Little Leaguer. I would have been scared to death.

Parents now get their kids involved in all sorts of travel sports. When did you start playing travel or club ball, and what's your opinion on how young that should start?

I loved it. I think it's also great to play other sports and not just be focused on one sport. I don't remember when I started, but I would wait. You don't want to be burning yourself out because you started too early.

What's your favorite road city to visit, and why?

I love going to San Diego. The weather is always great and it's so convenient [being close to L.A.].

What's the coolest part of being a Major Leaguer?

Playing in Big League stadiums every day, in front of thousands of people. It's a dream come true, for sure.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This article will appear in the 2018 Little League Magazine.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger