Five Little League World Series alumni who transitioned from baseball to another sport — just like Mo’ne Davis wants to

August 22, 2014

Minnesota Vikings quarterback and Little League World Series alum Matt Cassel. (Jim Mone/AP)

It may seem silly, as adults, to be so interested in the Little League World Series. It is, after all, quite literally child’s play. But there’s something exciting about knowing you could be seeing future athletic superstars. The Little League World Series has produced plenty of alumni who have become successful MLB players, of course. Currently, the MLB boasts LLWS alumni Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds, Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays, Cory Rasmus of the Los Angeles Angels, Stephen Fife of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lance Lynn of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers.

More interesting, maybe, is that the LLWS has also produced plenty of top-caliber athletes in sports other than baseball. So when 2014 standout Mo’ne Davis says she imagines herself a future WNBA star, she’s not joking. These athletes pivoted their early baseball careers into something else, too.

Matt Cassel

This former Kansas City Chiefs and now Minnesota Vikings quarterback played in the 1994 Little League World Series with his team dubbed “The Earthquake Kids” out of Northridge, Calif. They made it all the way to the end but ended up losing to Venezuela in the final. “And the next thing you know we were eating pizza, having pillow fights and we were back to being 12-year-old kids again,” Cassel told the Los Angeles Daily News. But not for very long. Cassel stuck with both baseball and football through college and ended up being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2004. Ultimately (and obviously), Cassel ended up choosing football. He signed with the New England Patriots in 2005 as an undrafted free agent.

Chris Drury

The breakout star of the 1989 Little League World Series later helped the Colorado Avalanche to the 2001 Stanley Cup. He led his Trunbull, Conn., team to a victory over Taiwan to win it all. “The thrill of a lifetime,” Drury remembered in New York Daily News. But Drury would get another thrill in 1989 — he won a national youth hockey tournament, too. The latter would turn into his sport of choice as he went on to join the Colorado Avalanche and, later, the New York Rangers, where he eventually became captain.

Brian Sipe

The former quarterback of the Cleveland Browns won the Little League World Series in 1961 with his team from El Cajon, Calif. Sipe credits his undefeated run in the LLWS with instilling in him confidence to succeed in football. “I mean, I’m an undersized guy and I’m not fast. But after winning that, not much else sort of surprised me in sports. I sort of expected to succeed,” Sipe told Active.com. And succeed he did. He won the Cleveland Browns MVP award in 1980.

Pierre Turgeon

This Canadian athlete helped his Little League team from Rouyn, Quebec, get into the World Series in 1982. The team’s stint was short, however. Turgeon struck out 10 to easily win the team’s first-round game, but subsequently lost the next two and exited early, according to Little League’s official Web site. The defeat did little to dampen the athlete’s future hockey career, though. He played 18 seasons in the NHL after being picked first in the 1987 NHL draft.

Krissy Wendell

Before Krissy Wendell went on to captain the 2006 U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team, she became the fifth girl to play in the Little League World Series and first to start as a catcher in 1994, LittleLeague.org reports. Her Brooklyn Center, Minn., team didn’t take home the big prize, but she helped them win a respectable third-place finish. Incidentally, she finished third with the U.S. hockey team in Turn, as well. She took home a bronze medal for her efforts.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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Marissa Payne · August 22, 2014