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Volume 20 No. 41
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Little League crowd to take in big league game

The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will play this Sunday to about 3,000 people, representing one of the smallest crowds in years to see a Major League Baseball game. But the event still represents one of the league’s largest and potentially most impactful marketing efforts of the season.

The Pirates-Cardinals game is the centerpiece of the newly created MLB Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa. Seeking to advance youth participation efforts, MLB will stage the regular-season game in concert with the Little League World Series going on in Williamsport at the same time. The two teams will play at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field, home of the Class A minor league Williamsport Crosscutters, to a crowd largely made up of participants from the Little League World Series and their families, with the game broadcast on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”

First Look podcast with discussion of this story beginning at the 12:55 mark:

More than $4M in renovations make BB&T Ballpark ready to host the Pirates-Cardinals game.
Courtesy of: MLB
The effort is an extension of last year’s Fort Bragg game in which MLB continues to seek out nontraditional domestic venues to stage games. After playing last year for the first time on an active military base using a newly constructed facility, the league played a key role in renovating BB&T Ballpark to major league standards, in turn allowing it to bring big leaguers to the town of about 29,000 people.

“We are committed to bringing our game to unique places, and this is certainly part of that,” said Tony Petitti, MLB chief operating officer. “This was something of a perfect storm in which every stakeholder bought in right away. We needed to get coordination from the players union, the two teams, Little League, the minor league team, the town, our owners, and so on, and there was great participation immediately and across the board. And we think this makes a big statement behind what we’re doing to get more kids playing baseball.”

There will be two primary components to the day. In the afternoon, Pirates and Cardinals players will attend the Little League World Series and interact with the participating youth teams. The event will then shift about 5 miles to BB&T Ballpark, where the major league game will start at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than the normal start time for “Sunday Night Baseball.”

Bringing the 91-year-old BB&T Ballpark up to major league specifications required more than six months of planning and work, and more than $4 million in renovations. MLB funded a complete resodding of the field with a new drainage system, upgraded wall and fence padding, new foul poles, backstop netting, and the buildout of temporary clubhouses. Local governments and the Crosscutters, meanwhile, collaborated on upgrades in the seating bowl and the development of a new premium deck.

“This is a really unique setting,” said Murray Cook, a longtime field consultant who aided the league on the preparations. “We’re talking about a really small footprint overall. In some ways, it was more challenging than even some of the international things we’ve done. But it’s come together wonderfully.”

Tickets are free and largely confined to Little League World Series participants and their families, but a lottery was held for local Lycoming County residents involving a small amount of ticket inventory.

The game will be the initial activation of the much-discussed Players Weekend later this month, a joint youth-focused effort by MLB and the MLB Players Association in which players will wear alternate uniforms featuring player nicknames, brighter colors and more customization in accessories.