Inside Baseball With Rob Rains

A dozen years after their paths crossed on a Little League baseball field in Williamsport, Pa., Kyle Tidwell heard the name Lance Lynn again this week when his brother called on the telephone to tell him Lynn was making his major-league debut for the Cardinals.

On that August day in 1999, Tidwell’s team from Phenix City, Ala., which included Colby Rasmus and his brother and which was coached by their father, met the team from Brownsburg, Ind., in the Little League World Series. On the mound for Brownsburg was their 12-year-old pitching ace, Lynn.

Lynn and his teammates carried a 4-1 lead into the sixth and final inning of the preliminary round game, when Phenix City mounted a rally and loaded the bases with one out. Tidwell, the left fielder, was coming to the plate.

Phenix City already had lost a game in the tournament, and was two outs away from virtual elimination when Tidwell hit a fastball toward the center field fence.

“It was about 6 inches from being robbed,” Tidwell recalled this week.

Instead, the ball cleared the center field fence for a walkoff grand slam, which as it turns out, became the highlight of Tidwell’s baseball career.

Twelve years removed from that game, Tidwell was on the beach in Panama City, Fla., last week on vacation with his wife and two young children as Lynn was earning a promotion to the major leagues. After playing high school baseball, and one year of baseball at Gadsen State College in Alabama, Tidwell got married, returned home and went to work for his father’s plumbing business.

“Life happens,” Tidwell said by phone. “I chose something else.”

Ironically, that grand slam was Tidwell’s only hit of the tournament, as Phenix City rallied and won the U.S. Championship before losing the title game to a team from Osaka, Japan. Lynn’s team lost all three of its games.

Tidwell had kind of lost track of Lynn over the intervening years, even though he knew he had been drafted by the Cardinals. A Braves fan, Tidwell also follows the Cardinals because of Rasmus, who went to a different high school after their days as Little League teammates.

“I haven’t talked to him in a long time,” Rasmus said. “We all kind of split up from that team. My brother and I were the only ones who played for our high school, everybody else kind of went their separate ways.”

Rasmus, who played first base in that game, was running at second base when Tidwell hit the homer.

“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” Rasmus said. “I don’t try to rub it in or anything (to Lynn) but it was one of the best times in my life for sure.”

Tidwell is reminded of his historic moment every time he visits his parent’s house.

“My parents have got stuff all over their house,” Tidwell said. “Lynn is in a picture there somewhere. You can see the look on his face is like ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe I just gave up a grand slam.’ He was shocked. We’ve got a film of the raw footage from the telecast It shows him. He couldn’t believe that it happened. He was shocked.

“All I remember was running around the bases and getting mobbed at home plate and getting a bloody lip because they (his teammates) were beating me up. Everybody was pretty excited. We all remember that time. I know I will never forget it. I would like to go back up there one day to watch a couple of games. It would be fun. It’s something not many kids get to do. We had a lot of lucky games and a lot of stuff fell our way.

“That kid (Lynn) was throwing strikes and pretty much putting it on us all day. All of a sudden he made a couple of bad pitches and we had the bases loaded and I was up.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

While that one day was unkind to Lynn, his baseball career certainly has blossomed over the years. He was part of an undefeated state champion team in high school (ranking second in the country his senior year to Rasmus’ Phenix City team), became a high draft pick out of college and has now become a major leaguer.

Tidwell was not able to watch Lynn’s debut last week, but said he will try to be in front of his television the next time Lynn pitches for the Cardinals.

“I keep up with the Cardinals because of Colby and I watch them whenever they are on,” Tidwell said. “If he keeps pitching, I am sure I will see him. I remember him. I can see his face right now. I know exactly what he looks like.”

That is one memory which will never fade away.

There is plenty more of Rob’s Inside Baseball, click here to drop by his site and read the rest of his thoughts on the MLB Draft, Albert Pujols, news from around Major League Baseball, and news from around Minor League Baseball.

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