MLB LL Classic lottery set up for tickets

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette From left, former Chicago Cubs pitcher Steve Trout, Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly and Little League president Steve Keener pose for a photograph after Thursday’s Little League luncheon. Trout and Coonelly were in attendance to represent the Cubs and Pirates, respectively, in advance of this year’s MLB Little League Classic. Once again, a lottery was set up for Lycoming County residents to apply for tickets to the game.

There will have been only three MLB Little League Classic games soon, but the Pittsburgh Pirates will have the distinction of being the only team to play in multiple, having played in the 2017 game against the St. Louis Cardinals and this year’s upcoming game against the Chicago Cubs.

And if Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly had his choice, the Pirates would be playing every single summer in that game at Bowman Field.

“I’d love to be the host every year. I know there’s another team in eastern Pennsylvania that I know they enjoyed their experience here last year, but we love being here and if Major League baseball made this an annual event, which I fully support, we’d love to be the host team every year,” Coonelly said.

Coonelly was in attendance Thursday at Little League’s annual luncheon to represent the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs were represented by former pitcher Steve Trout, who pitched from 1983-87 with the Cubs.

Once again, area fans in Lycoming County can enter a lottery to win tickets for the game. There will be at least 50 winners drawn and each winner will receive two tickets to the game.

To enter, residents within Lycoming County must apply at www.mlb.com/llclassic. The sweepstakes will run until 9:59 a.m. on June 21.

Trout never played in the Little League World Series — even joking that it took him 62 years to finally get there when he was in town Thursday — but he knows that the Little League players look up to the big leaguers and the game at Bowman Field is the perfect way to bring both together.

“How they’re going to interact with players, the Major Leaguers with the Little Leaguers and then the Little Leaguers with the Major Leaguers, that’s going to be a thrill not only for the guys who are playing, but for the kids,” Trout said. “Young ball players who look up to them and have those dreams of getting to that level.”

Trout was honored to be representing the Cubs, and also joked with Coonelly that the Cubs would win the game in August.

Plenty of players from that 2017 Pirates team are still with the club, including Josh Bell, and Coonelly already knows the players that experienced the MLB Little League Classic are telling the newer players what a great time they’ll have when they arrive in South Williamsport and meet the players at the Little League World Series.

“Every player on the roster who had the opportunity to be here in 2017 are thrilled to come back again and are telling their teammates who weren’t here, ‘you’re going to love this,'” Coonelly said. “So they’re all thrilled to come back.”

And for Coonelly, he’s thrilled the Pirates are able to make a trip back to Williamsport to play at Bowman Field for a second time.

“When Major League Baseball let us know they’d like us to come back again this year, every single person from the owner to the players to the coaches were thrilled when I was able to tell them we were coming back. They love the connection to the kids and the connection to the game,” Coonelly said. “Youth level where it is all about pure joy. It isn’t about salaries and necessarily about wins and losses under a microscope of a 162-game Major League season. They’re just playing baseball for the joy of the game and they were able to see that, experience that and relieve it again here.

“And also for the players in particular, what I was blown away by the last time was how thrilled our players were to be here because they all wanted to be here. The two teams (in 2017), only three players had made it to the Little League World Series as young players. The rest of them were like ‘I wanted to be here. Our team should have been here. We lost when our coach used the wrong pitcher or so-and-so had an error.’ They’re thrilled to be here as Major League players.”

And for Little League itself and Steve Keener, the event itself was better than anything they had hoped for the past two years.

“I can’t speak for Major League Baseball, but success of the Classic from Little League’s perspective has exceeded our expectations,” Keener said, noting that ticket applications for the lottery were down in 2018 compared to the inaugural game.

“I’ve had good conversations with commissioner (Rob Manfred) and other folks at Major League Baseball who are very enthused with what we’ve been doing and say it’s one of the best things that they do each year. So hopefully it’ll continue for years to come.”