Little League of extraordinary gentlemen
Four Little League World Series standouts who went pro in a sport other than baseball
This story appears in the Sept. 5 issue of ESPN The Magazine
MAJOR LEAGUERS Jason Bay, Colby Rasmus and dozens of others have a commonality: They all played in the Little League World Series. With the LLWS now under way, today's 12-year-olds could be tomorrow's stars. But not everyone stays on the diamond.
CHRIS DRURY, 1989
Trumbull Little League (Conn.)
Then: At 126 pounds, junkballer Drury went the distance in the world championship upset of Chinese Taipei. His 63 mph heater helped open doors to the White House, face time on Good Morning America and a first pitch before that other World Series in 1989.
Now: The 12-year NHL center recently announced his retirement.
MATT CASSEL, 1994
Northridge City Little League (Calif.)
Then: Dubbed the Earthquake Kids due to a 6.7 magnitude quake the team endured (in January, Northridge City fell to the Venezuelans and future MLBers Yusmeiro Petit and Guillermo Quiroz. First baseman Cassel doubled as the team clown. Some may recall his crowing moment, when he professed his love for Susan, his aluminum bat, on air.
Now: Cassel is the Chiefs' starting QB.
JULIAN VANDERVELDE, 2000
Davenport East Little League (Iowa)
Then: At 12 years old, Vandervelde was a 6'2", 231-pound first baseman known as the Gentle Giant. "We grow them big [in Iowa]," his coach said at the time. Vandervelde hit .417 to lead Davenport to the U.S. championship game. He also smacked a 239-foot home run in Game 4. Reminder: He was only 12!
Now: The Eagles drafted the 6'2", 300-pound offensive guard in April.
AUSTIN DILLON, 2002
Southwest Forsyth Little League (Clemmons, N.C.)
Then: Dillon put the "little" in Little League, checking in at just 4'9" and 84 pounds. "Scrappy" played second base and hit ninth for a squad that went 0-3. Back then, he saw medical school in his future.
Now: The grandson of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress drives a truck version of the black No. 3.
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ESPN The Magazine: September 5, 2011