WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Big league dreams came true on Sunday night at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field.
The first MLB Little League Classic between the Pirates and Cardinals wasn't just a home run, it was a grand slam.
"I have a lot of great days in my job. But today, even before we get to the Major League game, has been one of the absolute best," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "I would be remiss if I didn't start with thanking partner [Little League president and CEO] Steve Keener. The event they run year in and year out is absolutely phenomenal. I was honored to be a part of it over there today."
Video: STL@PIT: Pirates, Cardinals show sportsmanship
Part of Manfred's goal this week was to expand baseball's reach by bringing Major League Baseball to a place it had never been before and celebrate it. The trip to Williamsport was also designed to inspire little boys and bring the big boys back to their baseball roots.
The Little League Classic was also about the love of the game -- now and in the future -- and fun, lots and lots of fun. The Pirates won this historic game, 6-3, and then copied their Little League counterparts by slapping hands with the Cardinals in a handshake line in the middle of diamond after the game was over.
"I think first and foremost, this is an indication of the strength of the relationship we had with Little League and the respect we have for the job that Little League does, particularly in the 8-12 space," Manfred said. "Secondly, I think publicizing the game, marketing the game to young people has to involve young people. The idea that we can have Major League players come in, go see the Little League World Series game and then play a game in a stadium full of Little Leaguers, those are good benchmarks for us. The kind of exposure you get from that undertaking is something you can't pay for and is hard to quantify."
Video: STL@PIT: Manfred discusses playing Little League
The Commissioner arrived early Sunday morning and watched firsthand as the Major Leaguers cheered on the Little Leaguers at Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer Stadium, the home of the Little League World Series. He was there when the Little Leaguers returned the favor a few hours later at the newly renovated Bowman Field.
• Starting Pictures: MLB Little League Classic
In between, there were joyful bus rides with big leaguers and Little Leaguers sharing seats, tons of autographs and too many selfies to count.
Video: STL@PIT: Little Leaguers on meeting MLB players
Major League Baseball could be back next year. Manfred addressed the possibility of bringing Major League Baseball back to the Little League World Series in 2018.
"I know there was a lot of interest throughout the league from teams that wanted to be here and had players that played in the Little League World Series," he said.
Here are some sights and sounds from the historic event:
11:17 p.m. ET: Pirates give Little League Classic rave reviews.
Andrew McCutchen (@TheCUTCH22): A day to remember. Had a great time in Williamsport tonight. Brought back some old memories from when I played for the Crosscutters back in 2005.
Trevor Williams (@MeLlamoTrevor): #MLBLittleLeagueClassic 10/10 would do again. Will recommend to a friend.
Clint Hurdle: "One of the highlights if my career...I was happy to be a part of it, humbled to be a part of it."
Max Moroff (@Max_Moroff): Had a lot of fun today! Brought back some memories.. hopefully more to come! #playersweekend
10:09 p.m. ET: After Pirates defeat Cards, 6-3, a perfect finish to a special day.
9:49 p.m. ET: Selfie with the Commissioner
9:29 p.m. ET: Unique uniforms, special stories
9:05 p.m. ET: Little League opponents coming together as fans of the game.
8:55 p.m. ET: How's the view from the hill?
8:44 p.m. ET: Little Leaguers show off their arms by helping with the T-shirt toss.
8:22 p.m. ET: First-pitch ball has seen some action.
8:09 p.m. ET: Stars of the future! Even Little Leaguers' autographs are in demand.
7:56 p.m. ET: Pirates star Andrew McCutchen and wife, Maria, who are expecting a baby boy, won't have to look far to find a sitter if they ever need a date night.
7:46 p.m. ET: Grabbing some big league treats
7:43 p.m. ET: Star gazing! The best seats in the house belong to the Little Leaguers.
7:05 p.m. ET: Ceremonial first pitch -- or 16!
7 p.m ET: Play ball? Play ball!
6:45 P.M. ET: Classic's a Spectacle in its own right
6:30 p.m. ET: Cards adopt new Roo-les
6:15 p.m. ET: Bathroom break?
6 p.m. ET: Cervilli catches on with kids before Classic
5:45 p.m. ET: A homecoming of sorts for Hurdle
5:30 p.m. ET: Cardinals get prepped for the game
5:15 p.m. ET: Cards put new mascot to work
5 p.m. ET: A slow-motion look at Cutch taking BP
4:45 p.m. ET: An interesting bit of Cardinals trivia
4:30 p.m. ET: Pirates limber up and reflect on a great day
4:15 p.m. ET: Cards set for action
3:45 p.m. ET: Bucs are ready to roll
3:15 p.m. ET: Putting a final bow on Bowman Field
2:45 p.m. ET: Attention turns to tonight's game
2:30 p.m. ET: LLWS alumni are recognized
2:15 p.m. ET: Cards get in on the action; pick up new mascot
2 p.m. ET: Grichuk takes time out from a full day of baseball
1:15 p.m. ET: Cards, Bucs enjoying LLWS action
Video: Cervelli relishing Little League Classic experience
12:45 p.m. ET: Snow cones, anyone?
Noon ET: Cards greeted at airport
Video: STL@PIT: Cardinals arrive for Little League Classic
11:45 a.m. ET: Bucs visit LLWS complex
11 a.m. ET: Cards are on their way
10:46 a.m. ET: Kontos shows off ultimate prize
10:30 a.m. ET: Manfred, players are here
The day began at the Williamsport Regional Airport, where the Bucs and Cards were welcomed to town by a crowd of Little Leaguers. Rather than heading to a hotel or straight to the ballpark, they're going to the Little League World Series complex -- and some of them, including Carlos Martinez and Dexter Fowler, will ride with their younger counterparts.
10:10 a.m. ET: Major Leaguers excited
• Pros, kids unite at LLWS
Both clubs spent the afternoon at the Little League World Series site, meeting players and their families, while taking in a game at Lamade Stadium. It was a homecoming of sorts for three alumni of the Little League World Series: Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk (2003-'04 LLWS with Lamar (Texas) National) and starter Lance Lynn (1999 LLWS with Brownsburg, Ind.) as well as Pirates infielder Max Moroff ('05 LLWS with Maitland, Fla.).
The Cards and Bucs will play tonight's game at historic Bowman Field, home to the Class A Short-Season Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League. The ballpark is the Minor Leagues' second-oldest and is renovated and ready for a crowd of around 2,500 people -- almost entirely Little League players.
The clubs will give fans a sneak peek at the Players Weekend gear that will be worn throughout the Majors from Aug. 25-27. They'll wear jerseys with nicknames, not their last names, on the back. They'll swing specially designed bats, lace up flashy cleats and sport colorful caps.
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.