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How the Little League World Series is helping Elias Díaz and Jurickson Profar during five-game losing streak

Patrick Lyons Avatar
August 26, 2023

For nearly two weeks every summer, the baseball world turns its eyes to Williamsport. A small town of less than 30,000 located dead-center in Pennsylvania — a nearly equal distance away from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as New York City — holds the greatest tournament of youth baseball on the planet.

Less than three hours south in Baltimore, Md. are two members of the Colorado Rockies who have been invested in these games more than most big leaguers. Despite a five-game losing streak that has seen their bullpen blow saves and increase the likelihood of 100 losses this season, Elias Díaz and Jurickson Profar have taken pride in what children from their hometown have accomplished.

Established in 1947 with a 12-team tournament made up of teams from Pennsylvania, plus one from the other side of the Delaware River in New Jersey, the Little League World Series eventually welcomed a team from Canada in 1952 and eventually grew into the international competition it is today.

Profar represented Curacao twice as a Little Leaguer, winning in the 2004 Championship Game alongside Jonathan Schoop of the Detroit Tigers before returning in 2005 and losing in the Finals.

Díaz never played at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, the centerpiece of the LLWS, but he is one of a few that has played in Williamsport as a big leaguer on two occasions. Starting in 2017, Major League Baseball created the Little League Classic, a matchup of two clubs playing against one another in a minor league ballpark located six miles from the tournament site. The first two teams to ever compete in the 2,000-plus seat Bowman Field were the St. Louis Cardinals and Díaz’s Pittsburgh Pirates. Two years later, Díaz went back with the Bucs for the second time.

Shortly before Díaz hit a two-run home run to lift the National League to victory in the 2023 MLB All-Star Game, earning the Ted Williams’ Most Valuable Player Award in the process, he learned that the team from San Francisco Little League in his hometown in Maracaibo, Venezuela won the Latin American Championship to cap a 6-0 run in the regional. Considering he trains their in the offseason, he reached out to the boys to wish them luck

For all the bragging rights Díaz possesses, Profar has it one better as his hometown team from Pabao Little League in Willemstad, Curaçao defeated the team from Venezuela on Monday, 2-1. The Curaçaoans will play in the International Championship on Saturday and a win will put them in the Little League World Championship against the top club from the United States on Sunday.

On the field, Díaz has a lot in which he’s grateful, particularly after getting back his swagger. Through a 26 game stretch to start the second half, Díaz saw his numbers at the plate dip heavily. His slash line of .207/.270/.315 with two home runs and six runs batted in paled in comparison to the performances that earned him the distinction as the first catcher in Rockies history to be selected for the All-Star Game. Over his last six games however, he’s batting .478 (11-for-23), with two homers and nine runs batted in, including an RBI-double during Friday night’s 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Conversely, Profar is receiving less playing time. Starting in four of Colorado’s last 11 games, young players like Michael Toglia and Elehuris Montero have been given more opportunities. He, too, is able to keep his spirits up despite the team’s 48-80 (.375) record due to the success of his hometown.

In addition to winning the Little League World Series as an 11-year-old in 2004 before reaching the final and losing to Hawaii in 2005, Profar’s two younger brothers have also reached Williamsport. Juremi, who went in 2007-08 and later spent seven seasons in the Texas Rangers’ farm system, and Jurdrick, who finished as runner-up in 2019, contributed in making the Profars only the second trio of brothers to represent their country. Though Profar watched his younger brothers each time, he said he never got nervous.

Profar will be rooting hard on Saturday. He played with the team’s manager and has spoken to many of the players, even them sending gifts of congratulations. He’d love to get back to Williamsport and play in the Little League Classic some day. And as a free agent this offseason, he can help make that wish come true should he sign with either the New York Yankees or Detroit Tigers, the two clubs scheduled to play in the 2024 version.

Now in his 10th season in the Majors, it’s easy to think his path to the pros began in Little League. Did the success Profar had at the Little League World Series in front of the large American crowds mark the start of thinking that becoming a Major Leaguer was a possibility?

“No,” he said. “In Little League, you just play baseball. It’s something that you love and play with friends.” No matter the results on the field, baseball will forever be a kid’s game.

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