Sun-Gazette sports story of the year: Pirates and Cardinals visit a revamped Bowman Field for MLB Little League Classic

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (22) congratulates Jackson, N.J’.s, Garrett Drew after Drew brought him the lineup card before the MLB Little League Classic Aug. 20 at Bowman Field.

Some four months after the last pitch of the MLB Little League Classic, what remains most impressive about the entire event is that it’s going to happen again.

Come Aug 19, 2018, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets are scheduled to play a Sunday night game amidst the Little League World Series, right here in Williamsport, one year after the Pitts­burgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals made history by doing so this past summer.

That’s because things went so well the first time, thanks in part to efforts from MLB, the players union, Little League, groundskeepers, Bowman Field, the fans who showed up, and even Mother Nature for not dumping any last-minute rain on this baseball parade.

It all made this game the easy choice by the Sun-Gazette sports staff as the 2017 Sun-Gazette sports story of the year, as big of any sports story around here any year.

On the field that night, Josh Bell hit a three-run home run for the Pirates in their 6-3 victory.

2. Montoursville's Gavin Hoffman earns a second straight PIAA wrestling title, bids to become first Lycoming County wrestler with three.

But it was more than that. The game’s occurrence necessitated a massive upgrade of Bowman Field to major league standards, by installing a new playing surface and dugouts in addition to previously planned upgrades in the stands.

It was a chance to show a different part of town to a national television audience, one used to seeing the sights and sounds from across the Susquehanna River at Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums.

It was a chance to see big leaguers act like Little Leaguers, even if just for a night, with pregame selfies and postgame handshakes.

It was a chance for a few hundred lucky people to win free tickets from a lottery to join the Little League World Series players and families in the stands.

It was a chance for those people to watch Major League Baseball close up, something that usually involves at least a three-hour drive from here and expensive seats.

3. Katie Jones of South Williamsport recovers from offseason injury to set state girls pole vault record in districts and repeating her PIAA title.

It was a chance to show what kind of event this area can put on when given a chance.

And now it has another.

Past top stories

2016: Frank Girardi inducted into College Football Hall of Fame

2015: Lewisburg boys win PIAA Class A soccer title in 15 years, capping perfect season.

4. Kevin Anderson of St. John Neumann statewide boys basketball Class A player of the year as Neumann wins fifth straight District 4 title and runs its regular-season win streak to 90 games.

2014: Biggest LLWS ever: Mo’ne Davis, Jackie Robinson West, Dave Belisle, and record ratings.

2013: Williamsport Outlaws fold amidst first season of outdoor hockey, cancel six weeks of games.

2012: Ugandans first native African team in the LLWS.

2011: Penn State fires Joe Paterno in wake of Jerry Sandusky child abuse charges.

2010: Jersey Shore and Montgomery girls compete for PIAA softball championships, finish second.

5. Loyalsock's Katie Savidge becomes first District 4 girl to reach the PIAA Class AA girls tennis semifinals.

2009: Loyalsock girls earn a PIAA Class A soccer championship.

2008: Loyalsock wins PIAA baseball and softball titles on same day.

2007: Frank Girardi retires after 36 seasons as Lyco football coach.

2006: South Williamsport girls win PIAA Class AA girls soccer championship.

2005: No. 14 seed Bucknell upsets No. 3 seed Kansas in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.

6. Lewisburg's Brandon Smith completes the last of the "run-on" careers at Penn State, finishing a Fiesta Bowl season as a starting linebacker.

2004: Down year: Just one local football team– Montoursville– finishes with a winning record.

2003: Lycoming receiver Ricky Lannetti dies of MRSA the night before an NCAA playoff game.

2002: Louisville’s Aaron Alvey and Fort Worth’s Walker Kelly combined for 40 strikeouts as each throws a maximum 9 innings in a US semifinal. Louisville wins, 2-0 in 11 innings, en route to taking the LLWS title.

2001: Driver Blaise Alexander, of Montoursville, killed in an ARCA series crash.

2000: Montoursville’s Mike Mussina leaves the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent after 10 seasons to sign with the New York Yankees.

7. Penn State repeats its NCAA wrestling title, its sixth in seven years, as Zain Retherford from District 4 repeats his individual title.

8. Loyalsock boys basketball coach Ron Insinger inducted into Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

9. Lycoming men's soccer wins a program record 19 games and reaches the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

10. Loyalsock baseball reaches 7th PIAA baseball semifinal in 10 years.