ARLINGTON, Texas — Jonathan Schoop has clear memories of his time in Williamsport, Pa.
How couldn’t he?
That’s where, he said, his career was launched. Schoop is the only member of the Twins who played in the Little League World Series. And he did it twice, winning the championship with Curacao in 2004.
“It was amazing. That was where my career started, in the Little League World Series,” Schoop said. “I enjoyed the game and even sometimes in big leagues, I want to play like I was in Little League — have fun and enjoy the game. That’s all you do there — you enjoy the game, no matter if you lose or win.”
The Little League World Series wraps up on Aug. 25. On Sunday, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates ventured to Williamsport to play in the third annual MLB Little League Classic. While the current Curacao team’s run came to an end on Sunday, Schoop’s team had much more success, becoming the first — and so far only — team from the Carribean to win the title.
In 2004, Curacao rallied for five runs in the final two innings to beat a team from Taiwan 9-8. Schoop was 3 for 5 with three runs driven in that game. They then shut out Mexico in a game where Schoop went 2 for 3. And in the championship, they beat a team from Thousand Oaks, Calif., 5-2. Schoop went 2 for 3 with an RBI and run scored while picking up the save.
And afterwards, the team received a hero’s welcome back home.
“It was amazing. We got everything. We didn’t know what we did. We were kids. We got one year of McDonald’s for free, we got haircuts for free, we got money,” Schoop said. “All the banks in Curacao gave us money (and) when we got to 18, we could get it out. You name it, we got phones. We got a ring. We got everything, everything you could imagine, we had.”
In addition to Schoop, Jurickson Profar, now with the Oakland Athletics, also played on that team. Profar’s younger brother, Jurdick, is on Curacao’s current team. Schoop, who knows Jurdick Profar, was paying close attention to the team’s run, as the coach of the team, Michelangelo Celestina, was Schoop’s coach back in the day.