It’s in his blood lines and the Red Sox 2013 fifth-round pick is determined to climb up the ladder to get to his ultimate goal of becoming a major leaguer, like his grandfather Jack.
Yet as a competitor, Littrell wants to win first-and-foremost and he has been granted just that in his first run as a pro with the Lowell Spinners, who have challenged for a playoff spot up to the final day of the season.
“The Cape [Cod League] was all about the draft and everyone was talking about the draft,” said Littrell, who played for the Harwich Mariners last summer. “It wasn’t like a win or lose thing, it was kind of like everyone was playing for themselves. You still wanted to win, and coaches got mad if you lost, but it didn’t have that [winning] feeling.”
Now the Lowell Spinners look to Littrell's stubborn, winning attitude as they try to close out their season on the right foot in Aberdeen.
“I like winning,” said Littrell. “It kind of eats me even, if I’m not pitching and you don’t win. It’s not the end of the world but you don’t like it. There is a bitter taste in your mouth.”
The University of Kentucky product has not worked long enough in any of his ten starts to qualify for his first pro win, so his 0-3 mark may not reflect his mental makeup, but he has more than carried his load for Lowell.
In 26 2/3 innings the lefty from Louisville has a 2.03 ERA, struck out 25 batters and has held right-handed hitters to a scant .206 batting average.
“It’s been a blast,” said Littrell of his debut in professional baseball. “I talked to [former Atlanta Braves pitcher and family friend] Kent Merker probably two hours before I left [to come to Lowell] and he was telling me, “You’re going to have the best time of your life. These next six weeks are going to be the best six weeks of your life.” It’s fun not having to worry about anything but baseball.”
As a senior at Louisville's Trinity High School, Littrell was named Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year and was ranked as the best prospect in the state while at
He added to his lure in three successful seasons with the University of Kentucky Wildcats where he compiled a 21-13 record, striking out 215 batters over 261 2/3 innings, against some of the best college talent in the nation in the SEC.
Now he is getting a chance to get reacquainted with some of his SEC friends and foes alike in the New York-Penn League, helping Littrell adjust with more comfort.
“There are SEC players all over the place,” said Littrell. “It’s fun because you know you have that connection, something to talk about off the field or during BP or something. Especially me being a pitcher with the hitters, you kind of know what to expect. You know their weakness, their strengths, so pitching against SEC players I have a feel for how to pitch and what not to throw them.”
That level of comfort was something that Littrell was unsure of when he first walked into the Spinners clubhouse after being drafted in June.
“I was a little nervous going somewhere new, you don’t know anyone or how you’re going to fit in, but everyone was open with welcoming arms,” said Littrell. “The guys are great.”
Now he is driven to follow in his grandfather and father’s footsteps.
His grandfather reached “The Show” in 1952 as an infielder with the Philadelphia Athletics and appeared in 111 games over four seasons in the big leagues.
Corey’s father Jack, an 11th round selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977 out of Oldham County (Kentucky) High School, played four seasons in the minors.
“I’ve wanted to do this my whole life,” said Corey. “Now that I get to it’s all about putting all my effort into this. I want to make this my career and hopefully I never have to work after this, after I play baseball.”
Chosen by the Red Sox with the 143rd overall selection just three months ago, Littrell has been an important part of a Spinners staff that has a 2.92 ERA (third best in the NYPL) and a 1.16 WHIP (second in the league).
In the process he has gotten the opportunity to begin his career with a historic franchise that he learned a lot about while playing in the Cape last summer, likening the rabid fan base to that of the University of Kentucky.
“When I got drafted by the Red Sox it was awesome,” said Littrell. “Last year, playing in the Cape, my host family had season tickets to the Red Sox and it is Red Sox everywhere. It’s like how Kentucky is with Big Blue Nation. There are Kentucky fans everywhere and so I loved that feeling about it. They always support you.
“Once I saw my name on the board, I couldn’t ask for more. [The Red Sox] know how to develop their pitchers. They’re going to take their time, make sure you’re where you need to be and doing what you need to do before you get thrown into the fire.”
So while the fire is just getting stoked for the 21-year-old, he and his Spinners mates will hope to keep the flames fanned for a little bit longer, thanks to that winning mentality.
“You’re playing a kids game and getting paid for it, you couldn’t ask for much more,” said Littrell poignantly putting it all in perspective.
He will get the start in tonight's regular season finale for the Lowell Spinners who need a win and a Jamestown Jammers loss to secure the Wild Card spot and continue on with their season.
There is little doubt that Littrell will be up to the task.
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