From Local Diamonds to the Pros: Inspiring Youth Baseball Triumphs in Ohio

With the annual Little League World Series taking place over the next couple weeks, it’s always charming to see the kids live out their dreams of playing baseball at a high level. While there’s a long road from being one of the best little league players in the country to becoming a bona fide professional star, anything is possible.

Players like 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger of the Chicago Cubs, Kevin Cash (who currently manages the Tampa Bay Rays after playing in the big leagues for the better part of nine seasons) or Gary Sheffield, who is a member of the prestigious 500 home run club and won a World Series in 1997 all saw their dreams of playing under the bright lights begin during the run up to the Little League World Series.

Right now the team from El Segundo, California is the favorite to win the United States side of the bracket, while last year’s runners up from Curacao look like the best bets to take home the crown on the international side of the bracket: be sure to use a BetMGM Ohio Bonus Code if you want to bet on the Little League World Series or any other sport or league so that you know you’re locking in the best possible odds of winning big.

Here in Ohio we have a similar tradition of sending young athletes to the upper echelons of the sport, with the heartland charm that makes the Buckeye State what it is, providing a sports-focused upbringing for young athletes.

Ohio’s Little League World Series team (representing the Great Lakes region as a whole) suffered a tough loss to Henderson, Nevada during an elimination game over the weekend, but many of these youngsters are just embarking on their baseball careers, whether they play in high school, college, or even if they eventually make their way to the hallowed ranks of Major League Baseball.

Here are some MLB stars for them to look up to who also made their way from humble beginnings in the Buckeye State to the pinnacle of professional baseball.

First on the list is legendary knuckleballer Phil Niekro, who grew up just across the Ohio River from Wheeling, West Virginia in the southeastern part of Ohio. Both Phil and his younger brother Joe enjoyed more than two decade long careers in Major League Baseball, relying on the elusive knuckleball that their father taught them growing up.

Phil won five Gold Glove awards, pitched a no-hitter and amassed 3,342 strikeouts over the course of his career. Joe’s numbers weren’t quite so lofty, tallying just 1,747 strikeouts as he relied more on power pitches like his fastball, although he always kept the tumbling knuckleball in his back pocket.

While Phil became a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Joe managed to secure the elusive career achievement that his older brother never did, winning the World Series with the New York Yankees in 1987.

Next on the list is one of the greatest to ever man the hot corner, third baseman Mike Schmidt. Schmidt grew up in Dayton, later attending Ohio University…while the Bobcats are rarely a powerhouse on the national stage, Schmidt’s presence was enough to help them contend for a College World Series during his 1970 season. He hit 548 home runs in his 18 year playing career (all with the Philadelphia Phillies), amassing ten Gold Glove awards, six Silver Sluggers, three National League MVP awards, a World Series championship and MVP award for that series, doing it all on both offense and defense, the kind of player any kid would love to emulate.

The last two players on this list have somewhat more controversial reputations, but their accomplishments on the diamond made them an inspiration for generations of young players nonetheless. Pete Rose grew up in Cincinnati, playing for his hometown Reds for much of his professional career.

Nicknamed Charlie Hustle for the energy and drive he brought to every ball game, Rose set the all-time record with 4,256 hits, winning three World Series titles as a player. While he was never the most physically talented player on the diamond, Rose’s high motor playstyle earned him a place as one of the greatest players ever.

Rounding out the list is pitcher Roger Clemens, a Dayton native like Schmidt (although he attended high school in Ohio). Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers ever, racking up a MLB-record seven Cy Young awards and winning a pair of World Series trophies, relying on his aggressive, high-speed fastball to blow by hitters.


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