The vast majority of MLB players participated in Little League Baseball. For a fortunate few, Little League took them to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for one of the few youth sports competitions that draws national attention.
This is not a comprehensive list, but here are 12 guys who had (or are having) impressive big-league careers after appearing in the Little League World Series.
LLWS Team: Belmont Heights, Tampa Bay, Florida (Southeast)
LLWS Result: U.S. champion, World runner-up, 1980
MLB Career: Milwaukee Brewers (1988-1991), San Diego Padres (1992-1993), Florida Marlins (1993-1998), Los Angeles Dodgers (1998-2001), Atlanta Braves (2002-2003), New York Yankees (2004-2006), Detroit Tigers (2007-2008), New York Mets (2009)
Sheffield played for Belmont Heights in the Little League World Series one year after his uncle, Doc Gooden, represented Belmont Heights in the Senior League World Series. Sheffield dominated the tournament as an 11-year-old, posting a .600 batting average. He went on to be a nine-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger and 1997 World Series champion.
LLWS Team: Altamonte Springs, Florida (Southeast)
LLWS Result: U.S. champion, World runner-up, 1984
MLB Career: Boston Red Sox (1997-2011)
Before he was breaking curses and captaining the Red Sox, Varitek was racing toward the mountaintop of youth baseball. Despite going hitless in the tournament (0-for-7), Varitek played strong defense at shortstop, third base and catcher. The U.S. champions from Florida lost to South Korea in the world championship game, but 20 years later Varitek delivered the first World Series title for the Red Sox in 86 years. Varitek is one of three players to play in the LLWS, College World Series and MLB World Series.
LLWS Team: Trail, British Columbia, Canada
LLWS Result: International runner-up, 1990
MLB Career: San Diego Padres (2003), Pittsburgh Pirates (2003-2008), Boston Red Sox (2008-2009), New York Mets (2010-2012), Seattle Mariners (2013)
Bay's Canadian squad made a deep run in the 1990 tournament, losing in the international final to eventual world champions Taiwan. Bay went 2-for-5 with two walks and three runs scored. Bay went on to have a successful 11-year career. He amassed 222 career home runs, made three All-Star appearances and was the first-ever Canadian to win Rookie of the Year.
LLWS Team: Toms River, New Jersey (Mid-Atlantic)
LLWS Result: World champion, 1998
MLB Career: Cincinnati Reds (2011-2015), Chicago White Sox (2016-present)
As a 13-year-old, Frazier dominated the Little League World Series 13 years before his big league debut. Frazier hit leadoff for Toms River and ripped a grand slam in the U.S. championship game. He was the winning pitcher in the world championship game, while also going 4-for-4 with a home run in the victory over Kashima, Japan. Frazier is a two-time All-star and the 2015 Home Run Derby champion.
LLWS Team: Phenix City, Alabama (Southeast)
LLWS Result: U.S. champion, World runner-up, 1999
MLB Career: St. Louis Cardinals (2009-2011), Toronto Blue Jays (2011-2014), Houston Astros (2015-present)
Rasmus, along with brother Cory, led his Alabama-based squad to the world championship game, falling short to a team from Osaka, Japan. In the U.S. championship game, Rasmus' defeated a Toms River team coming off a LLWS championship with Todd Frazier one year earlier. Rasmus went 5-for-10 with a home run, reaching base safely in all but one at-bat. Rasmus recorded a record 13 strikeouts in the Southern region championship game.
LLWS Team: Brownsburg, Indiana (Great Lakes)
LLWS Result: Eliminated in group stage, 1999
MLB Career: St. Louis Cardinals (2011-present)
Lance Lynn won a World Series with the Cardinals in his rookie season, pitching a perfect eighth inning against the Texas Rangers in Game 7. His LLWS career was less triumphant, but he put on quite an individual display. Lynn batted .429 in three games, all loses. Lynn remains a prominent member of the Cardinals pitching staff and made an All-Star appearance in 2012.
LLWS Team: Lamar National Little League of Texas (Southwest)
LLWS Result: Eliminated in group stage, 2003; U.S. runner-up, 2004
MLB Career: St. Louis Cardinals (2014-present)
Grichuk was a standout in Williamsport for two consecutive years. He went 4-for-9 as an 11-year-old, playing first base and pitching. As a 12-year-old the following year, Grichuk led the tournament in hits, home runs, RBI, runs and slugging percentage. His team lost to California in the U.S. championship game. Grichuk pitched against big-league outfielder Michael Conforto in the tournament.
LLWS Team: Redmond North Little League (Northwest)
LLWS Result: Eliminated in group stage, 2004
MLB Career: New York Mets (2015-present)
Along with Jason Varitek, Conforto is one of the three players to play in the LLWS, College World Series and MLB World Series. In Conforto's first LLWS at-bat, he faced future big-league outfielder Randal Grichuk. Both Conforto and Grichuk homered in the game. Conforto finished the tournament tied for fifth in batting average, going 6-for-10.
LLWS Team: Gary, Indiana (North)
LLWS Result: Lost 1971 championship game to Taiwan.
MLB Career: Cincinnati Reds (1987-1988), Chicago Cubs (1989-1990), Pittsburgh Pirates (1990-1994)
McClendon earned the nickname "Legendary Lloyd" for his performance at the 1971 Little League World Series. In 10 plate appearances in three games, McClendon hit five home runs. The other five plate appearances? He was intentionally walked. McClendon's team from Gary, Indiana, was the first with all African-American players to reach Williamsport. McClendon played eight MLB seasons and then managed the Pirates and Mariners.
LLWS Team: Pabao Little League (Curaçao)
LLWS Result: World champion, 2004; International runner-up, 2005
MLB Career: Texas Rangers (2012-present)
Profar played in the LLWS twice, as an 11-year-old and 12-year-old. In his first run, his team won it all, as Profar pitched to a 2-0 record with a save. He struck out 19 batters in 12.1 innings. He also contributed at the plate, hitting .313 (5-for-16) with a double and five RBI. Profar hit an even stronger .389 (7-for-18) in his next year going 1-0 on the mound. A top prospect in the Rangers organization for years, Profar is now an everyday player on a team poised to make a World Series run in 2016.
LLWS Team: Pabao Little League (Curaçao)
LLWS Result: World champion, 2004
MLB Career: Baltimore Orioles (2013-present)
The 2004 Curaçao team has proven to be one of the most prolific LLWS teams ever in terms of producing big league talent. Profar was the leading pitcher, and Schoop recorded the final two outs of the championship game, earning a save. Schoop recorded two hits in the final, driving in a run. According to Schoop, "It was the best experience of my life … going to the States, it was exciting to win it all."
LLWS Team: Lakeland, Florida
LLWS Result: Reached quarterfinals
MLB Career: Baltimore Orioles (1961-1974), Cleveland Indiants (1975-1976), Los Angeles Dodgers (1977)
In 1954, eight teams, all from the United States, earned a trip to Williamsport. Powell's team lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual champions from Schenectady, New York. (Schenectady's star Jim Barbieri played one MLB season, for the Dodgers in 1966 when they lost to the Orioles and Powell in the World Series.) Powell hit 339 MLB home runs and was the American League MVP in 1970, the same season he helped Orioles win another World Series.
Follow Jack Minton on Twitter @jackminton95.