MLB confirms Pirates vs. Cardinals in Williamsport

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association announced and confirmed on Thursday that the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will be playing a regular season game at Bowman Field on Sunday, Aug. 20, known as the MLB Little League Classic.

Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly spoke to The Sun-Gazette regarding the game on Wednesday evening.

The game between the two was announced earlier this week through various outlets, but was not confirmed by the league at that time.

The game is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and will include Dan Shulman, Jessia Mendoza, Aaron Boone and Tim Kurkjian broadcasting the game.

Both Pirates and Cardinals players are scheduled to attend the Little League games during the day “as a unified demonstration of their passion and commitment to helping grow the game at the youth level,” according to a statement by the MLBPA.

“We are thrilled and honored to be representing Major League Baseball in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in this classic series. Could not be more happy to have our players participate in what we know will be a really fun and exciting event bringing together Little League Baseball players at the top of their level of play with Major League Baseball players who they idolize,” Coonelly said. “It’ll be a wonderful time and it’s a great thrill to us that it’s in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.”

The game will be in conjunction with the Little League World Series, which runs Aug. 17-27 in South Williamsport at Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums. According to Coonelly, tickets to the game will be a priority with Little League, although he did not have knowledge of how they would be allocated.

Coonelly said the priority is to connect Little League players and families and fans with the major leaguers. As of Thursday morning, Little League was withholding ticket information until Major League Baseball officially announced the game.

According to a press release by Major League Baseball, the MLB Little League Classic game will be attended by Little League players and their families.

“We continue to work closely with our friends at Major League Baseball to find new and exciting ways to engage more children around the world with our great game. We look forward to welcoming the Pirates and the Cardinals to Williamsport during the Little League Baseball World Series this summer,” Little League President and CEO Stephen Keener said in a statement from MLB on Thursday. “We are extremely grateful to Commissioner Manfred, the Pirates and Cardinals, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe and state Senator Gene Yaw for their support of this exciting, new initiative, and we look forward to a fun and memorable MLB Little League Classic.”

The Pirates scheduled home game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, Aug. 19, was originally set for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch has been rescheduled for a 4:05 p.m. start, according to Coonelly, to allow the Pirates a longer rest before they will head to Williamsport on Sunday, Aug. 20, in the morning.

The team is expected then to leave shortly after the game to head back to Pittsburgh for a four-game homestand from Monday, Aug. 21, through Thursday, Aug. 24, with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Last year, the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins played a regular-season game at Fort Bragg, N.C., that was attended by members of the military and their families.

“I think there have been a few different potential domestic games to follow onto the really terrific Fort Bragg game that Major League Baseball did last year. They settled on a trip to Williamsport in conjunction with Little League World Series and they got it exactly right,” Coonelly said. “This is a major priority for Commissioner (Rob) Manfred and all Major League teams. I know a priority for the Pittsburgh Pirates is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to connect our game at Major League level to all the grass roots softball and baseball that’s being played throughout our country, and encouraging that participation by as many boys and girls that we can possibly encourage to play that we all believe is such a wonderful, wonderful game that has so many positive benefits for the children and the young adults who play the game.

“It’s the national pastime for a reason and one of reasons it’s our national pastime in my judgement is because the game so well embodies the attributes that Americans embody and that is: hard work, discipline, repetition, ability to deal well with adversity and to overcome difficulties and challenges in game and their real life,” Coonelly added. “We like to preach the gospel of the tremendous benefits of playing baseball regardless of skill level. Obviously the young children that we’ll be connecting with in Williamsport play game at extremely high level, allows us to really showcase the pride and enjoyment that come from playing baseball.”

Coonelly said that Manfred’s work with youth baseball incentives is something that will likely translate to possibly more Major League games in conjunction with Little League in the future.

“Major League Baseball, particularly under Commissioner Manfred, has worked really hard to become much more cohesive and coordinated with the youth baseball programs that are being run throughout our country. Little League Baseball is among the best organized and obviously most recognized among the many organizations that promote and play great game of baseball,” Coonelly said. “But as I said, it is a priority for him and for us to continue to bring together the youth baseball and organization in a cohesive manner. So I’m confident that one, the game on Aug. 20 between Pirates and Cardinals will be a terrific celebration of grassroots baseball in small town, America. I use it as a great compliment. And it’ll be such a success that we’ll want to as a league find as many opportunities to participate in these types of games as we possibly can.”

Manfred has visited the Little League World Series in recent years.

Bowman Field is scheduled for improvements this year that will include new, larger dugouts relocated on traditional spots behind the first and third base lines, stronger netting to protect all stadium seating areas and new field reserved seats closest to the field that will replace the previous box seats.

These upgrades are financed through a $1.25 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. In addition, a lightning assessment is also expected to bring the stadium up to MLB requirements, something Coonelly also mentioned.

“It’s a regular season game and it’s going to count and it’s against one of our arch rivals. It’s going to be played like any other Major League Baseball game, just a stadium with a few fewer seats,” Coonelly said. “I’m confident that field is going to be in terrific shape, I haven’t been to Bowman but heard great things about it. I know MLB will be working with team there to make sure that everything is up to Major League standards.”

No regular season Major League Baseball game has ever been played at Bowman Field, which first opened in 1926.

Barnstorming teams have played at Bowman Field though and have featured many future major league players including Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Jim Rice, Nolan Ryan, Jose Bautista and current Pittsburgh Pirate Andrew McCutchen, who played 13 games with the Crosscutters in 2005 when they were a Pirates affiliate.

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