MLB players aren't the only ones with unique monikers
By Mike McCormick
Williamsport is not about to miss out on the inaugural Players Weekend. For every "Boomstick" and "Joey Bats" roaming the Major Leagues, Little Leaguers have their own share of great nicknames.
Since unfiltered fun and creativity dominate the dugouts of youth ball, it comes as no surprise that this year's Little League World Series teams have nearly as many entertaining monikers as there are players on their roster.
From the "American Dream" to "ZPS," from "Corndog" to "Pickles," there are loads of clever options for these kids to use under future high school yearbook photos and scripted onto the shoulder of varsity jackets.
Based solely on the entertainment value of their nicknames, here's a completely unscientific preview of who looks strongest heading into the LLWS semifinals.
U.S. Championship: Southeast vs. Southwest
The Southeast region champs from Greenville, N.C., have lit up the record books with shutdown pitching, giving up just one hit through their first three games. The Lufkin, Texas, team representing the Southwest region notched that hit, then went on to defeat Connecticut on Thursday to earn a rematch for a U.S. title.
North Carolina's best: "Lil' A," "Bruno Mars," "C-Drizzle," "Simba," "Stinger," "The Wagon" and "Woo"
Texas's best: "Big Cheese," "Chipper," "Hollywood," "Uno-Uno" and "ZPS"
Advantage: North Carolina
Zach Phipps, aka "ZPS," gets credit for the best overall nickname in this matchup, but speedster Cash "The Wagon" Daniels-Moye -- so dubbed for his bandwagon sports fandom -- zipped home with the winning run the last time these teams met, so watch out for him to do it again.
International Championship: Japan vs. Mexico
Japan has outscored opponents, 22-1, en route to a 3-0 record. Mexico's pitchers, after a first-round loss to Venezuela, have strung together 22 innings of two-run ball to reel off four straight wins and earn a shot at Japan.
This isn't even close, folks. Japan clearly takes the art of nicknaming seriously, and if these results are any sign, Mexico is in for a tough time on Saturday.
The Mexico players got the chance to learn from the best last weekend, though, when the Pirates and Cardinals visited Williamsport to play in the inaugural MLB Little League Classic, and they did so wearing the special Players Weekend uniforms.
"My favorite nickname was 'El Coffee' for Gregory Polanco," Mexico's Isaac Miranda said through a translator. Added teammate Erick Vazquez (who goes by "Toro"), "I liked 'Tsunami' for Carlos Martinez."
The West region champs from California had some clear top picks, too: Danny Lawler singled out "Sparky" from Mike Leake's jersey. Tyler Ankrum -- who goes by "Tyrail" -- liked the simplicity of "Dex" for Dexter Fowler. Garrett Strenger -- nicknamed both "GMan" and "Stranger Danger" -- liked both "Cutch" for Andrew McCutchen and "J-Hey" for Jason Heyward.
Canada's Ty Fluet ("Ty guy") concurred on "Cutch," while Kyle Chyzowski ("Chyzz," of course) was more impressed by the uniqueness of Felipe Rivero's "Nightmare."
Which brings us to the most unique team of all, the Mid-Atlantic contingent from New Jersey. "My favorite MLB player nickname is 'The Rook' for Jordy Mercer," said Dean Daddio ("Dino").
"I really like Travis d'Arnaud's jersey because his is 'Lil' D,' just like the name is spelled," John Grano ("Johnny G") said.
Like Chyzowski, Chris Cartnick ("Diesel") gives big points for originality: "'Dave Human' (for David Freese) was my favorite, because it's weird," he said.
When it comes to the perfect nickname, it most definitely pays to be weird. Just ask the "Elastic Pig" (South Korea's Jin Won Shin) or "Pickles" (Northwest's Landon Welter), who shares a nickname with the Yankees' Sonny Gray.
"I don't have a favorite, but I like 'Wonger' for Kolten Wong," New Jersey's Tai Mann said. Mann won't be playing for the title this weekend, but he may lay claim to the LLWS championship nickname: "Corndog."
Mike McCormick is an editorial director for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.