Phils players flip script as fans at Little League World Series

August 20th, 2023

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- When 12-year-old Nathan Hellberg of Media Little League stepped to the plate for the biggest at-bat of his life on Saturday, he knew his favorite big leaguer -- Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber -- was watching in the stands.

Though Hellberg is typically the one watching and cheering on Schwarber, the roles were reversed at Saturday's Little League World Series game.

Hellberg said Schwarber's support was particularly special for him because "we kind of relate to each other."

How so?

“Both lefties, you know? Just all right in the field, you know?" Hellberg said, before lighting up and adding, "Hit bombs for a living, you know?”

Schwarber was on hand at Lamade Stadium, along with the majority of his Phillies teammates, to watch Media (located about 13 miles from downtown Philly) take on Rhode Island in an elimination game at the LLWS.

And Hellberg certainly knew he had a big league cheering section standing just behind Media's first-base dugout.

After all, it was hard to ignore the commotion in the crowd at when the Phillies first arrived. They were swarmed for autographs and pictures after getting off the bus and entering the seating bowl along the left-field line.

They eventually made their way to the reserved section behind Media's dugout, and immediately began voicing their support for the local Little League team.

So when Hellberg came up with a runner on second and Media trailing by one in the bottom of the fifth with superstars like Bryce Harper, Schwarber and Trea Turner all looking on, he had to be nervous ... right?

“Nah," Hellberg said. "I don’t get nervous like that.”

A calm and composed Hellberg ripped an RBI single up the middle, sending the Media faithful -- led by Harper and Schwarber -- into a frenzy.

"That's what it's all about," Schwarber said. "Just seeing how much fun they're having and the energy they bring every game, it's awesome. It's no secret we always feel the support from our fans, so being on the other side of that and being able to cheer them on today was just a great experience."

Hellberg actually missed the Phillies' reaction to his hit in the moment, but he later saw it on social media.

"I saw it on [social media] afterward, actually," Hellberg said. "I was like, ‘Oh dang, I should have looked.'"

Hellberg's knock tied the game, but Rhode Island rallied with a five-run sixth inning to end Media's run at the Little League World Series with a 7-2 defeat. That's when Harper stepped in to the locker room to deliver a pep talk to the team.

“He said, ‘I know it’s tough right now, but I’ve been in this situation before. You guys will get better, and one day, you guys will be at Citizens Bank Park,'" Hellberg said of the message Harper delivered.

The Media players will, in fact, be at Citizens Bank Park in the near future after the Phillies invited them to an upcoming game.

After visiting with the Media team, Harper then strolled to the outfield, where the team from Henderson, Nev., was warming up for its game against Fargo, N.D. The Henderson team is from just outside of Las Vegas, the hometown of both Harper and Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott.

"That was really cool," Stott said of meeting the Nevada team. "It was awesome to be able to see both the hometown teams -- Pennsylvania and Nevada -- in-person and connect with some of the kids."

Following the pep talk from Harper and Stott, the Nevada team stayed alive with a 7-1 victory. As for the Media team, most of the kids will head back to eastern Pennsylvania on Monday, but not without some lifelong memories.

"It was awesome," said Phillies outfielder Brandon Marsh. "Especially just them being from our area, just seeing them get this far -- it was fun watching them, for sure. That was the highlight of the day for me."