Dodgers' rookie star went to US final with Chandler, Ariz., in 2007
By Joe Trezza
Nobody knew who he was at the time, but that sweet, smooth Cody Bellinger swing -- the one that would come to captivate the baseball world -- first hit national television sets 10 years ago.
It was the 2007 Little League World Series, and Bellinger's team from Chandler, Ariz., made it all the way to the U.S. bracket final before losing to the eventual champion from Georgia. But Bellinger made his mark, going 3-for-3 with an opposite-field home run in one of the games.
Looking back, it was here the younger Bellinger began to separate himself from the legacy of his father, who won a World Series with the Yankees in 2000.
"It was probably the most fun I had playing baseball," Cody Bellinger said of the Little League World Series. "I think that was the moment for me where I said, 'I really want to do this. I can probably try to do this.' It turned the switch a little bit. I focused on it a little more."
Less than a decade later, Cody would be in the big leagues, smashing home runs at a historic rate for a rookie.
"Cody used to be 'Clay Bellinger's son,'" said Clay Bellinger, who coached his son in the Little League World Series. "Now, I'm 'Cody Bellinger's dad.'"
Cody Bellinger is the first player from the 2007 Little League World Series to reach the Majors, and the latest in a long line of elite youngsters to grow into Major Leaguers. The 22-year-old Bellinger is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound slugger now with a chance to break the Dodgers' franchise rookie home run record. But back then, he was a smaller kid.
"I thought the Little League fields were big," he said with a chuckle. "You look back now, and its obviously the smallest field you can play on."
The fields may be small, but in Williamsport, Pa., the stage is huge, which is why it is such a luxury to have what Cody Bellinger did -- a Major Leaguer dad to help handle the atmosphere. Being in front of big crowds wasn't anything new for Cody Bellinger, who as a young child attended his father's World Series championship parades in New York City.
"Playing in front of 28,000-30,000 fans as an 11- or 12-year old is pretty spectacular," Cody said. "There was less pressure knowing [my dad] was there."
"You get just a condensed version of what could be life in the big leagues, with all the cameras and the media," Clay said.
Now that's all focused on Cody Bellinger again, as his Dodgers enjoy a historic season and eye a deep October run. He's a long way from Williamsport, and soon may have his own World Series parade to attend. Cody already knows what those are like, thanks to his dad.
"Any time you see your dad playing, you want to do it," Clay Bellinger said. "Then when you realize you're pretty good at it, you fall in love with it."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.