|Long before skating in New York, Rangers center Chris Drury was in the spotlight as a teenager pitching his baseball squad to a Little League World Series championship.
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"I just remember what a good time it was," said Drury said of winning the LLWS championship. "It was 15 or so of your best friends from your town. I just remember what a great time we had together that summer."
Drury was having a great summer, but he was still just 13 years old and given the assignment to pitch in what was the biggest sports day in his life. Drury wanted the ball.
"It was exciting," said Drury. "Anytime a big game comes, I think everyone is going to be wanting to be pitching and I got lucky. It was my turn in the rotation. I was fortunate enough to pitch and do well enough to get our team a win."
Drury pitched a six-inning complete game in the championship, giving up just two runs and allowing five hits, walking four and striking out two. He also came up big with the bat, driving in two runs. Drury seemed focused on just winning, a trait that people started to notice during the Williamsport tournament.
Drury hit .527 while winning eight games in the run up to Williamsport. In the final game, Trumbull faced Taiwan, a baseball team that had become a Little League dynasty and had won three straight titles. Taiwan's Little League teams were the equivalent of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens and Major League Baseball's New York Yankees in dominance. Drury shut them down.
Drury was just 13 and stood up to the pressure of international scrutiny.
"Well, that's Little League, I couldn't control that (the age)," Drury said. "It was great, it was a dream come true. It was a great team, great time and you could not ask for anything better for me and my friends. It was a great feeling, it made me realize what it like to win at a young age."
The Little League World Series would not be the last time Drury would be in the spotlight in 1989. He ended up in Oakland, throwing out the "ceremonial first pitch" of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's. Drury got to go to Yankee Stadium and "pitch" against his hero Don Mattingly. He and teammates met United States President George H. W. Bush and were guests on the ABC network TV show "Good Morning America." The Trumbull team members and coaching staff were A-List celebrities and the toast of the town in the United States for a few months.
Generally, Little League World Series heroes tend to fade away quickly after their achievements, but not Drury. He ended up playing more hockey and was the co-captain of the Fairfield County Preparatory School team in Fairfield. Drury's Fairfield Prep team won a Connecticut state hockey championship. The Quebec Nordiques took him in the third round of the 1994 draft and he chose to go to Boston University instead of playing junior hockey or turning pro at the age of 20. Drury's Boston University hockey team won the NCAA championship in 1994-95.
In 1998, he won the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in United States college hockey. He joined the Colorado Avalanche in 1998 and won the Calder Trophy as the best rookie in the NHL that season. Drury is the only player to win the Hobey Baker Award and Calder Trophy. He is also the only player to be on a Little League World Series championship team and a Stanley Cup champion. He has also been a member of two United States Olympic hockey teams.
Even though Drury won the game, he thinks he got lucky that he was able to escape with the victory. He wasn't too pleased with the last pitch he threw.
"It was a bad hanging curve ball with a guy on base and it was 5-2," he said of the final pitch of the 1989 Little League World Series. "If he hit out, it would have been 5-4 with two outs and the heart of the order coming up. Luckily he got under it a little bit and our guy (Dan McGrath) caught it at the (warning) track. Game over."