Every Little Leaguer dreams of making it to the big leagues. A total of 45 players have reached both the Little League World Series and MLB, including these 11 current pros who first hit it big on the fields of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
San Diego Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt began playing baseball at age 5. As a third baseman, Bethancourt had a tendency to stray from his position. Every time a batter hit a ball, even if it was toward right field, he would run after it. So his parents convinced him to move behind the plate but telling him that abandoning his post could lead to his team giving up a run.
The younger Bethancourt became a catcher and star pitcher for the Panama City, Panama, squad that reached the 2004 Little League World Series -- but that experience "exploring" other positions would eventually come in handy. Although Bethancourt's Panama team was eliminated in the quarterfinals, he didn't have to wait long to reach an even bigger stage. He was signed as a non-drafted international free agent by the Atlanta Braves in 2008 and began his minor league career at the age of 16. After two seasons in Atlanta, he was traded to San Diego in December. This year, in addition to serving as the Padres' backup backstop, Bethancourt has pitched and logged plenty of time in the outfield.
Before he became a hometown Home Run Derby champ -- and the first Little League World Series alum to win the Derby -- Chicago White Sox led his Toms River, New Jersey, team to the 1998 LLWS championship. As the leadoff hitter, the 13-year-old hit a grand slam in the third inning to put his team up 6-4 in Game 2 of the U.S. Central vs. U.S. East matchup. He also hit a homer and went 4-for-4 in the 12-9 victory over Kashima, Japan, in the championship game and was the winning pitcher.
As a 12-year-old, Loewen tossed a three-hit shutout in the 1996 Canadian Little League championships to propel the Kennedy team from Surrey, British Columbia, past Toronto and on to the LLWS. The left-hander (above, in Williamsport) was the team's best pitcher as well as its top hitter. Kennedy lost two of three games it played in Williamsport, but the experience led Loewen to choose baseball over hockey. "I always loved hockey more," he told The Morning Call. "But I remember that summer [playing in the LLWS] being the most fun I ever had."
Loewen -- who became the fourth Canadian selected in the first round of the draft when the Baltimore Orioles took him fourth overall in 2001 -- pitched for the Orioles from 2006-08 before becoming a position player and seeing time at all three outfield positions as well as first base for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011. Loewen switched back to pitching for stints with the Philadelphia Phillies. He earned his first win with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who called him up from Triple-A on July 30, on Aug. 6.
Only a dozen people in baseball history have played in both the Little League World Series and the actual World Series, and only five of those 12 have played multiple times in baseball's Fall Classic. Cardinals starter Lance Lynn is one of those five.
Lynn helped lead Brownsburg, Indiana, Little League to the Little League World Series in 1999. In Williamsport, the 12-year-old, who was then 5-foot-9 and 169 pounds, threw eight innings, posting a record of 0-1 with an ERA of 4.09 -- and also saw time at first base. In seven LLWS at-bats, he had three hits and scored a run for a .429 batting average.
Pitching against the U.S. South team from Alabama -- a squad that included Colby Rasmus, who would be his Cardinals teammate briefly in 2011 -- Lynn had a shutout through four innings, but allowed a run in the fifth and then gave up a game-ending grand slam in the sixth. Brownsburg lost 5-4 and finished the World Series tournament 0-3, but 12 years later Lynn made his way back to the grand stage. As an MLB rookie, Lynn won the 2011 World Series as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a key contributor out of the bullpen for the NL champions, including a perfect eighth inning in the Game 7 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Profar played in the 2004 Little League World Series as an 11-year-old and helped Pabao Little League win the first championship for the island of Curacao. He was a force both on the mound and at the plate for Pabao, going 2-0 with a save over 12 1/3 innings and striking out 19 while also batting .313 (5-for-16) with a double and five RBIs. Profar returned to the LLWS in 2005, when his team reached the international title game. That year, he hit .389 (7-for-18) with seven hits, five runs scored, three walks and two RBIs. He also pitched 13 innings in three games, giving up seven hits and four runs, striking out 26 and walking eight, earning a 1-0 record and a 1.85 ERA.
In his first game for the Rangers on Sept. 2, 2012, Profar homered in his initial major league at-bat. After missing two season because of a shoulder injury, Profar was called up to replace Rougned Odor in May and made the most of it, earning a regular roster spot as a utility player.
The Washington Nationals reliever is a winner. As a 10-year-old -- and backup second baseman -- Petit (No. 3, right-center, above) helped his team from Coquivacoa Little League in Maracaibo, Venezuela, win the 1994 Little League World Series title. It was the first time a Venezuelan team had won the championship and the first title for a Latin American team since Mexico won in 1958. When Petit and the San Francisco Giants won a championship in 2014, he became the only player to win both the Little League World Series and the MLB World Series.
Houston Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus led the Phenix City, Alabama, National Little League to the 1999 Little League World Series. Phenix City battled back through the losers' bracket and beat Toms River East American Little League (3-2) to win the U.S. title but lost the championship game 5-0 to Hirakata Little League from Osaka, Japan. Rasmus went 5-for-10 with a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs -- and also recorded seven strikeouts over the course of the tournament.
Rasmus was also a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic baseball team and was selected 28th overall in the 2005 amateur draft by the Cardinals. He finished eighth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 and has since played for the Blue Jays and Astros, but was relegated to the 15-day DL on Aug. 7.
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Cory Rasmus took a back seat to his older brother during the 1999 LLWS. Nonetheless, he followed his sibling to the big leagues in 2013, where the two faced off in a rare fraternal matchup. Just 10 days into his rookie season, Cory (then with the Atlanta Braves) faced Colby, then with Toronto. It marked the first time one brother had pitched to another in MLB since June 13, 2010. Big bro had the upper hand once again, as Colby lined a double to left field.
Saunders grew up playing baseball in British Columbia and going to Seattle Mariners games at the Kingdome. Like many Canadian kids, he played hockey too, but a run to the Little League World Series in 1999 as a 12-year-old with the Gordon Head Little League convinced Saunders that baseball was the sport for him. "I think playing in an international competition [at that age] and then getting a chance to play with the national team and travel the world really made me fall in love with the game," said Saunders, who was drafted by his favorite team in the 11th round of the 2004 draft and played for Seattle from 2009-14.
The Mariners traded him to Toronto in December 2014, but missed the 2015 season after stepping on a sprinkler head during spring training. Saunders returned strong this year, becoming the first Canadian player to hit three homers in a game for a Canadian team and an first All-Star for the first time.
Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop made back-to-back trips to the LLWS, playing for the Pabao Little League from Curacao that represented the Caribbean Region in 2003 and 2004. He and his team lost in the semis in 2003 and won the whole thing the next year. Schoop, then 11 and all of 5-foot-3, went 10-for-19 with a .526 batting average, with three doubles, seven runs scored and four RBIs.
Schoop, who batted third, and played shortstop and pitcher, shared his favorite memory of the LLWS with ESPN.com's Eddie Matz: "In the semifinals in 2004, we were losing to Chinese Taipei 8-4 in the last inning, and came back. I got a base hit to tie the game," said Schoop. "Then I came on in extra innings to pitch. I struck out all three batters, and then the next inning I got another base hit to win the game. That was the best."
Long before he homered in his major league debut (with the Blue Jays on April 6), Devon Travis went deep in the Little League World Series, propelling his Boynton Beach, Florida, team past Saugus, Massachussets, and on to the 2003 world championship game against Japan. And even after Travis and his team lost 10-1 in the LLWS finale against Tokyo's Musashi-Fuchu All-Stars, they celebrated on the field with their opponents. "We were just little boys playing the game we loved," Travis, Boynton's second baseman and catcher, told the Palm Beach Post in 2013.
Travis led off his major league career with similar enthusiasm -- and success. He was named the AL rookie of the month for April after batting .325/.393/.625 with 6 home runs, 17 runs scored, and 19 RBIs for the month before shoulder injuries relegated him to the DL.