WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The hill that overlooks the field at Lamade Stadium is an iconic backdrop at the Little League World Series. It is where Little League players and, since the inception of the Little League Classic, Major Leaguers alike grab a cardboard box and share in seconds of exhilaration as they slide down the grassy terrain.
CJ Abrams, Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray were among the Nationals who joined the growing list of big league players to experience the thrill.
“I’ve always watched the Little League World Series on TV, and I’ve always seen people do it and it looked so cool and so fun,” Downs said. “I’m here, why not try?”
Abrams and Downs approached the top of the hill together. Once the Little League players saw they were going to slide, cheers broke out and the players surrounded them.
“It was a lot harder than it looks. I thought it was going to be easier,” Downs, 25, said. “I couldn’t get any momentum going.”
After they reached the bottom, the size of the crowd grew exponentially. Fans could be heard chanting, “C-J! C-J!” to greet the 22-year-old shortstop.
“It was cool,” said Abrams. “To be able to put a smile on those kids’ faces, give them autographs, talk to them, it was a lot of fun today.”
Downs held a phone to capture the ride.
“I remember when I was a kid and big leaguers were around, I was always shy so I never really bothered anybody. But when you got the chance to talk to them, you thought about that for like the next two years,” Downs said. “I was trying to sign for each and every one of those kids to try to make their day and do whatever I can to make them smile, hopefully so they can keep playing the game, too.”
A few minutes later, Gray got to the top of the hill. Once he got situated on his cardboard box, a Little Leaguer was there to offer him an assist. The young player gave a push that sent Gray, 25, on his way, and several other players joined in on their own slides.
Gray, like Abrams and Downs, was met by a rush of excited fans.
“I kind of wasn’t moving, so I had to get assistance,” Gray, who also rode the City Bus with a group of players earlier in the day, said. “The kid was pretty good with it. All the kids were helping him out. … Once I finished up, all the kids came and got autographs. … You never take that for granted because you could make their day, you can create an impact on them.”
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