By Shawn Carey
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT – The Philadelphia Phillies wrap up their 5-game weekend series tonight with the New York Mets in an extra special, regular season matchup at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport.
Tonight at 7pm, is the MLB Little League Classic. It’s the second, professional regular season game, ever to be played, in the second-oldest Minor League ballpark in the country. The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals played in the inaugural game last season. It’s a very unique event that MLB officials hope will continue to increase interest in the American pastime.
Attendance tonight will consist mostly of players, their managers, coaches plus parents of Little League players, those participating in this year’s World Series tournament, as well as many representing our area Little Leagues.
Charter planes for both the Phillies and Mets, touched down a less than an hour apart this morning at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville.
As the Phillies left the plane at 11:40am, they were greeted by the Midwest team from Des Moines, Iowa and the Canadian champions from British Columbia, as they stood in opposite lines on the tarmac, followed by the Mets arrival at 12:15pm.
The men fist bumped and slapped high fives with the boys plus signed autographs. Team hats, both Major League and Little League, were exchanged between the players. Multiple smiles and well-wishes were shared from all around that truly set the stage for what will be a splendid day, many players and fans will never forget.
To make it even more memorable for these young players, a few Phillies and Mets, rather than hopping on board a charter team bus, chose to ride and interact with the kids to the Little League Complex in South Williamsport. The pros also mingled with players, coaches and many fans that gathered in and outside Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums.
The two National League East rivals bring to Central Pennsylvania, an added bonus…three players on their rosters who once played in the Little League World Series themselves: Todd Frazier and Michael Conforto from the Mets, plus Phillies utilityman Scott Kingery.
This is an extra special return to South Williamsport for the Mets’ Todd Frazier. This year marks the 20th anniversary, his Tom’s River, New Jersey team, a team that former ESPN/ABC Sports legendary play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger nicknamed “The Beast Of The East,” won the Little League World Championship over Japan, on August 29th, 1998. On that championship Sunday, Frazier went 4 for 4, including a big, solo home run to left field in the top of the 1st inning.
After today’s Little League winners bracket games wrap up at the complex, players and fans will make the six-mile trek over to Bowman Field. Those not able to get inside, and want to get a peek, will be on the levee between the 90 plus-year-old stadium and Lycoming Creek. Folding chairs to hold spots were already seen hours before the game.
Tonight, during on-field pre-game activities, competing Little League teams will be introduced and a player from each team takes part in a relay to home for the ceremonial first pitch.
Nick Pivetta (7-9) gets the start on the mound for the Phillies against Jason Vargas (2-8). So far this month, Pivetta has a 1.50 ERA and 19 strikeouts.
Live coverage of the MLB Little League Classic, on the Phillies radio network, begins tonight at 6:30 on 1070AM.