Podcast: Why MLB's new Little League Classic is so cool with ESPN's Jessica Mendoza

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The most unique event of the Major League Baseball season is happening Sunday night, as the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals forego a standard big-league game and head to Williamsport, Pa., to play in the first ever Little League Classic.

The idea: Take two big league teams and have them play in the heart of the Little League World Series. MLB renovated an old minor-league stadium — Historic Bowman Field, which is the second oldest minor-league stadium in the country, having opened in 1926 — and it will host the game. But it won’t like many baseball games you see.

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Capacity at Bowman Field isn’t even 2,500. And for this game, all the tickets are going to Little Leaguers. The Little Leaguers will get to meet the big-league players earlier in the day and interact with them. On the other side, two Cardinals players — Lance Lynn and Randal Grichuk — played in the Little League World Series as kids. The game is sequel-in-spirt to last year’s Fort Bragg game, an effort by MLB to take its product to different settings for one night per year.

Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pa., home of MLB’s Little League Classic. (MLB.com)
Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pa., home of MLB’s Little League Classic. (MLB.com)

To talk more about this, the StewPod’s Mike Oz and Liz Roscher got on the phone with ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza, who will be calling the game. She also has a unique job Sunday. She’ll be calling Little League World Series games in the afternoon for ABC’s coverage, then take her normal post as an analyst on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball with Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone and Tim Kurkjian to call the Little League Classic. TV coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET.

We talked a lot about why the Little League Classic idea is so cool, and one of the Mendoza’s reasons was:

“The intimacy of the event, you gotta understand these guys play in front of 40,000, 50,000 fans that are really removed from where they are. This is going to be, not just a small crowd, but they’re right there with them. And having spent the day with them and interacting — and how cool it’s going to look because all the kids are wearing their uniforms, so you’re going to see these bright colors. It’s just going, to me, bring this youthful, joyful feel to what can be a very serious game. But I think it’s important. I think we all remember when we first picked up a ball and played the game. And I think this game will give a reminder to not just the people watching but those playing in the game, which is going to show.”

She also talked to us about MLB’s upcoming Players Weekend — which you can get a preview of Sunday night, as the Pirates and Cardinals will wear their Players Weekend uniforms — as well her own experience playing Little League and about the growing interest for young girls to play baseball instead of softball.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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