Tradition remains the pillar of the Little League World Series.
In 2023, that hasn’t changed. Despite the production to cover the event transitioning over the years, that stayed. The introduction of the Little League Classic, however, has become an addition that has been welcomed with open arms.
“I think we’ve seen it go from a novelty that felt like it might be a one-time, special kind of thing, or two-time special, to where it’s evolving into the part of the brand, equity and stability of the Little League tradition,” ESPN head producer Phil Orlins told Awful Announcing.
— MLB (@MLB) August 20, 2023
ESPN and ESPN+ holds exclusive coverage for the Little League World Series which hosted the 2023 MLB Little League Classic on “Sunday Night Baseball,” on Sunday, Aug. 20. where the Philadelphia Phillies took on the Washington Nationals.
While it remained a true major-league game, there was an element of innocence that only this display could offer. The players are quickly taken back to the time where they first touched a ball and glove. Where the game wasn’t their livelihood.
“Major league players will come here and sort of drop their guard and he out in public and talk to kids, be accessible and be kids for a day,” Orlins said. “They’ll slide down the hill, or they’ll buy snow cones for little leaguers, or play ping pong, or be more accessible than when they’re playing in a major-league game.”
MLB veteran (and Little League Hall of Famer) Todd Frazier joined the crew along with Olympic gold-medalist Jessica Mendoza and Karl Ravech during the Classic, which was launched in August, 2017.
Ravech himself called three games throughout the weekend — two leading up to the big game.
Those watching had plenty of entertainment, of course, including Nationals outfielder Lane Thomas who was interviewed by a Jay Dlynn Wiel from Pabao Little League.
Phillies first baseman and designated hitter Bryce Harper also offered up a heartfelt interview about becoming a dad.
“Maybe the challenge sometimes in the day-to-day of 162 games, the expectation is to not let your guard down, or not to be a kid when you’re playing a kid’s game,” Orlins said. “So for one day, for the accepted expectation to be there, enjoy baseball as a 12-year-old does, is a pretty, pretty good concept.”
As far as recruiting the talent, Todd Frazier wasn’t a tough sell to have him join the event.
“I know how badly he wants to be in Williamsport,” Orlins said. “And you know, that’s genuine — and has never changed with him. He’s still living in Tom’s River, still engaged with their little league program — whether it’s his children or nephews — you know, certainly not a tough one.”
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 19, 2017
— Little League (@LittleLeague) August 20, 2023
KidsCast also was part of the presentation creating an all-youth broadcast in which the kids do what a typical broadcaster would do.
“It’s like, we want you to be good at calling a baseball game, but you’re going to talk to players from the dugout, on FaceTime, and then you know, the commissioner is going to stop by the booth and you’re going to interview the commissioner while you call the game at the same time,” Orlins said.
No big deal.
The annual event was a success, and rightfully so. It plans to return next year when the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers compete in the 2024 Little League Classic on Sunday, August 18, 2024.