Former Little League stars Randal Grichuk and Lance Lynn return for the MLB Little League Classic

ASSOCIATED PRESS Texas starting pitcher Randal Grichuk delivers in the second inning against Mexico during a consolation game at the Little League World Series in 2004 in South Williamsport. (AP)

In his last game at the Little League World Series in 2004, Randal Grichuk had just about as solid of a performance that you could have asked from your starting 12-year-old pitcher: A complete game in six innings, striking out 11 batters and scattering just three hits against the runners-up from the international field in Mexico Guadalupe, Mexico.

Grichuk earned the win that afternoon in 2004 at Volunteer Stadium as Richmond, Texas defeated Mexico, 5-0, in the consolation game, but likely he was a little disappointed his Texas team wasn’t playing for the championship that day. In a rare repeat trip to the Little League World Series, Grichuk was hoping 2004 would fare better than 2003 did by being able to win the whole tournament.

It didn’t work out in 2004 like it didn’t work out the year prior, but it was quite a feat for Grichuk and his teammates to make a return trip to South Williamsport.

Grichuk isn’t the only one to know that feeling of not quite winning it all at the Little League World Series, however. Take former Little League star Lance Lynn for instance.

During that late August back in 1999, Lynn’s team from Brownsburg, Ind., went 0-3 during their time in South Williamsport, losing to Phenix City, Ala., (5-4); Tom Rivers, N.J. (3-1) and Boise, Idaho (2-0).

Lynn threw a complete game in that opening loss to Alabama, scattering eight hits and allowing five runs, and he briefly came in during Indiana’s final game against Idaho, throwing two innings of relief and striking out three.

Neither team got to run around Lamade Stadium holding the championship banner and touching the bust of Howard J. Lamade that sits in center field, but it was still an accomplishment for both kids to get here.

But getting to the Little League World Series — a dream for thousands of kids every summer that only a select few get to experience– wasn’t the highlight of either Lynn or Grichuk’s baseball careers. Many years after setting foot on Lamade Stadium, both Grichuk and Lynn are coming back to the Williamsport area. Just this time, neither of them is a 12-year-old kid.

Being back in the area and seeing the Little League complex and fields over in South Williamsport may make them reminisce about being 12 year olds once again and reliving in their heads highlights from when they played here over a decade ago.

The view of the hill in center field, the memories of thousands of fans cheering them on as kids, being on national television, remembering what it was like hanging with teams from all over the world in the Grove Complex. Those memories will come back likely about as fast as a hard pitch thrown by Lynn.

Both Grichuk and Lynn are both teammates for the St. Louis Cardinals and the two are in town for the MLB Little League Classic, playing against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight at Bowman Field in the first MLB game played at the historic ballpark.

“We are really looking forward to welcoming the Pirates and Cardinals to Williamsport and are extremely grateful for the opportunity and experience that the MLB Little League Classic will bring to the community and to the Little League Baseball World Series,” said Little League President and CEO Steve Keener. “As part of the event, we are truly excited to share in the special opportunity of welcoming back Randal Grichuk and Lance Lynn to Lamade Stadium after their time spent here as Little Leaguers years ago.”

Grichuk and Lynn were not available for comment.

In addition to Grichuk and Lynn, members of the Pirates and Cardinals will both be visiting the Little League World Series complex today and interacting with various players participating at the World Series.

Baseball can take you on interesting paths and who would have guessed a kid from rural Brownsburg, Indiana and another from the far outskirts of Houston, Texas would find their way onto a professional field together as adults after both having played at the mecca of youth baseball four years apart.

Lynn was drafted in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft from the University of Mississippi and was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals World Series championship team in 2011, the same year he made his MLB debut.

Lynn also was named to the National League All-Star team in 2012, going 18-7 that season with an ERA of 3.78. The Cardinals pitcher missed the 2016 season after having to undergo Tommy John surgery. Lynn spent a brief time in the New York-Penn League in 2008, playing with the Batavia Muckdogs for six games. He was 1-0 with an 0.96 EAR and threw 18.2 innings during his brief time there.

Grichuk was committed to originally attend the University of Arizona, but was drafted with the 24th overall selection in the 2009 MLB Draft — one pick ahead of Mike Trout — and signed wtih the Los Angeles Angels instead of attending college.

Grichuk’s best season offensively was last year, when he collected 107 hits and batted .240 with a career-best 68 RBIs and 29 doubles.

He spent 2009 through 2013 and a little bit of 2014 and 2017 in the minor leagues, playing for a variety of teams between single, double and triple A affiliations.

In addition to both having played at Lamade Stadium as kids, they also both had the distinction of playing in a Little League World Series that featured numerous future big league players.

For Lynn, he played against Alabama’s Colby Rasmus (Tampa Bay Rays) and Cory Rasmus (former MLB pitcher) and Idaho’s Stephen Fife (Miami Marlins). Canada’s Michael Saunders also went on to play in MLB, as he’s with the Philaelphia Phillies as an outfielder.

Grichuk played with teammate Brady Rodgers, who plays for the Houston Astros. Florida’s Devon Travis that year went on to play for the Toronto Blue Jays and Curacao teammates Jonathan Schoop (Baltimore Orioles) and Jurickson Profar (Texas Rangers) made it to the big leagues too.

As Grichuk and Lynn walk around the complex for the first time since they played there, the two will likely be remembering what it was like to play infront of thousands of fans as kids. Now they get to play infront of Little League kids as Major Leaguers.

Just one of the many interesting paths baseball takes you.

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