Grichuk excited for return to Williamsport

Right fielder played in two Little League World Series

August 16th, 2017

BOSTON -- The Cardinals' Sunday stop in Williamsport, Pa., where they'll visit the Little League World Series Complex before facing the Pirates in a nationally televised game from nearby Bowman Field, will be a return visit for outfielder , who, along with pitcher , appeared in the LLWS on his way to the Major Leagues.

Grichuk was a member of the Lamar National League Little League team from Richmond, Texas, that advanced to the LLWS in 2003 and '04.

"I'm excited," Grichuk said of returning. "I have always wanted to go back, but obviously we [usually] can't because we're still in season. It'll bring back a lot of memories."

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Grichuk shared some of those on Tuesday, recollecting the phone call his team received from then-Astro Lance Berkman wishing them luck before the tournament and the off-day field trip to Hershey's Chocolate World that he missed because he was took sick. It was in Williamsport, Grichuk said, that he was first exposed to media interviews, playing in front of thousands of fans and, of course, being on TV.

Lamar advanced to the semifinals of the US bracket in 2003 before losing a 14-13, extra-inning game to a team from Saugus (Mass.) that ESPN dubbed an "instant classic." Grichuk went deep twice in that loss. A year later, Grichuk tied a LLWS record with 12 hits and led the tournament with four home runs as Lamar advanced to the U.S. finals.

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In those two years, Grichuk made appearances as an outfielder, third baseman, pitcher and first baseman.

"It was cool. You put your city and Little League on the map," Grichuk said. "They stood behind us and had watch parties. We had a lot of people travel from around the area to our Little League to check us out because they saw us on TV. So it was definitely good for the community."

Several relationships fostered through the experience have lasted, too. Grichuk said that about five members of the 2003 Lamar team remain connected through an active group text chain. One of them went into finance; another works in medical sales. A third, , is in the Astros' Minor League system.

Grichuk, a first-round Draft pick in 2009, has gone on to have the most accomplished Major League career.

"I think just playing Little League helped form a love of the game," Grichuk said. "And I wanted to continue to play as far as I could as long as I could."