Junior League All-Stars go on to superstardom
By Dave Gorgon
Special to The News-Herald
Think that star on the Major League baseball team looks familiar? You may have seen him as a 13- or 14-year-old competing years earlier in the Junior League World Series in Taylor.
At least nine Junior League World Series alums have played in the Major Leagues, two are members of the National Hockey League, one is a defensive coordinator in Division 1 football and a host of players have excelled in college sports and/or drafted by professional teams.
The best known pro that competed as a teen-ager in Taylor may be Gary Sheffield, who played with Derek Bell on the world champion Belmont Heights Little League team from Tampa, Florida, in 1982. Sheffield is in his 17th year in the majors and his second season with the New York Yankees. Bell’s 11-year pro career ended in 2001.
At least four other current pro baseball players competed in Taylor: Erik Bedard (Orleans, Ontario, 1992) is the ace of the Baltimore Orioles staff in only his second full season with the team. Brett Myers (Jacksonville, Florida, 1994) is a top pitcher in his fourth season with the Philadelphia Phillies. Jose Valentin (Manati, Puerto Rico, 1989), a 15-year veteran, is in his first year as a Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman. And Erubiel Durazo (Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, 1987), in his seventh season in the show, is Oakland’s designated hitter.
Delino DeShields (Seaford, Delaware, 1982) played 13 seasons in the majors through 2002. Chad Hermansen (Henderson, Nevada, 1991) had six Major League seasons, including 2004 in Toronto. Shannon Withem (Ypsilanti, 1986) was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round in 1990 and played briefly with Toronto.
In the NHL are Chris Dingman and Steve Reinprecht, Junior League teammates in 1989 with Edmonton, Alberta.
Mark “Bo” Pelini was the clean-up hitter with the 1981 champs from Boardman, Ohio. Since playing safety for Ohio State’s football team, Pelini has been a sought-after defensive coach. He was on coaching staff of Super Bowl champion New England before he became interim head coach at Nebraska when the Cornhuskers beat Michigan State in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. Today, he is defensive coordinator at Louisiana State.
Matthew Cassel (Northridge, California, 1995) was drafted in the seventh round this year by the New England Patriots of the National Football League. Another football star was Andy Mignery (Hamilton, Ohio, 1994), former starting tight end at the University of Michigan.
Those still in baseball include a number of players from British Columbia, Canada, a baseball hotbed. Adam Loewen (Surrey, British Columbia, 1997) was the No. 4 overall draft choice by the Baltimore Orioles in 2002. Matt Jones (Surrey, 2001) was drafted this year by the Florida Marlins, but will play in college in Texas. Teammate Terrance Dayleg was drafted this year by the San Diego Padres.
Shawn Bowman (Coquitlam, British Columbia), who was the home run derby champion in 1999, is in the New York Mets’ farm system. Cole Armstrong (Surrey, 1997) was drafted last year by the Atlanta Braves out of Chipola Junior College. Jordan Lennerton (Langley, British Columbia, 2000) was drafted this year by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jeff Frazier (Toms River, New Jersey, 1996) was the Detroit Tigers’ third-round draft choice in 2003.
Two opposing players in the 1993 JLWS wound up as teammates with the Lake Elsinore (California) Storm of the Padres system. Marcus Nettles (Chicago, Illinois) was a standout ballplayer at the University of Miami and until recently was among the fastest players in the San Diego, Montreal and Washington farm systems. Andres Pagan (Yauco, Puerto Rico, 1993) is still with Lake Elsinore.