Each summer kids gear up in their pinstripes and worn leather mitts and head to the baseball diamond to fill the neighborhood with the sounds of cracking bats and cheering crowds. Amplify that by 50 and you have the Little League World Series.
The hallowed grounds in Wililamsport, Penn., have seen its fair share of future and former pros; including one renowned NHLer who long ago traded in his baseball cleats for a set of hockey skates. But come late August, the memories of that late summer day in 1989 come flooding back to Chris Drury.
From Hobey Baker winner and NCAA championship with Boston University, to a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche and a silver medal with the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, Drury has enjoyed more than his share of athletic accomplishments.
Go back to his younger years and you will find not only success in hockey-- winning the USA Hockey National Championship as a PeeWee, but also in baseball, helping his team capture the Little League World Series Championship in 1989.
"It's hard to put one [award] in front of another," Drury said during a recent telephone interview with USA Hockey Magazine. "You certainly wouldn't trade in one for the other if it meant that, because anytime you're on a winning team it's special, no matter what it is."
Playing Little League baseball for an all-star team from his hometown of Trumbull, Conn., the squad advanced to the Championships against the Kang-Tu Little League of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and became the first American team to win the title since 1983. Led by Drury, who pitched a complete game five-hitter, the Trumbull team won 5-2.
"You know at that age [11 and 12] it's a huge rush. Your teammates and everyone around you cheering, and just to feel like your at the center of the universe...it was great," Drury recalled.
Despite his busy NHL schedule, Drury and his former Little League teammates make time to get together whenever he is back in Connecticut, with last year's anniversary prompting an idea for Drury and three teammates.
"We [Drury, Ken Martin, Paul Coniglio, and Cody Lee] just opened a [Colony Grill] pizza place in Fairfield," said Drury, "so we've seen plenty of Little Leaguers in there, including the Fairfield team who won their region this year and is heading to the tournament. They're from our district so it will be fun watching them and with so many good players and teams it will be great to see who takes home the big prize."
And while USA Hockey and the summer select festivals pulled Drury's focus from the diamond to the ice, he acknowledged the benefits of having been a multiple-sport athlete.
"I think it's huge to play every sport you can," Drury said. "I kept busy all summer long with baseball and then we played anything from basketball to football and everything in between. It helps you grow and mature, and, it gets you ready for hockey."
And with 23 on his own New York Rangers jersey, chosen after another New York athlete's uniform number (and his childhood hero), Don Mattingly, it's no question what team Drury would be aiming for another World Series title with.
"Well I grew up a Yankees fan, and kind of fell in love with them," he said. "Plus, you can't go wrong with the New York fans, I know that much."