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Little Leaguers begin their own World Series

Jack Drewry
Little Leaguers begin their own World Series
(top) Henderson, Nevada 12U Little League team. PHOTO: Henderson Little League (bottom) Fargo, North Dakota 12U Little League team. PHOTO: Fargo Youth Baseball

This week, youngsters between ages 10 and 12 from all over the globe head to Pennsylvania for the start of the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport. Ten United States regional champions and 10 international regional winners compete Aug. 16–27, playing 38 games in a double-elimination tournament to crown one winner.

Black and brown players to watch this year include Jojo Dixon of Nevada and Cash Martinez of North Dakota. As it was for Mo’ne Davis from Philadelphia a few years ago, attention will also be focused on female pitcher Stella Weaver of Tennessee.

One highlight during the two weeks will be the annual Major League Baseball game Aug. 20. It will be held at Bowman Field, home of the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Class A Short Season affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

This regular-season game features the Phillies against their National League rival Washington Nationals and is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN from the picturesque Allegheny Valley.

Every year, the major-leaguers look forward to sharing this game with their young counterparts. They fly into Williamsport Airport early and spend the afternoon watching Little League games and then host the kids at their big-league game that evening.

The major-leaguers are familiar with the little-leaguers, as many have spent the past week watching the young players’ games on television. When the big guys took the field last week, some could be heard discussing the great plays they saw the kids make.

One of the things they no doubt were talking about is the new Continuous Batting Order (CBO) rule. At the beginning of Little League games this year, the adult managers of each team have been submitting, for example, a 12-player batting order for the entire game, consisting of all eligible players.

That new rule means managers don’t have to worry about how to meet the Little League requirement that all players get into the game. They are free to rotate the nine position players except for the pitcher. The 85-pitch maximum per game remains in effect.

The Williamsport games Aug. 16 were slated to pit on the international side the Czech Republic against Veraguas, Panama, and Japan against Cuba, and in the U.S. competition Texas against Pennsylvania and Nevada against Rhode Island.

Maine is representing New England in the tournament. The other U.S. regional winners playing are Tennessee, Ohio, Washington state and North Dakota. The additional international participants are Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Curacao, Mexico and Venezuela. Last year’s champion, Hawaii, was dethroned in the U.S. regionals by Northern California, who in turn was defeated by Southern California.

The Little League World Series began in 1947, and one of the most popular features of the annual telecast is the “then-and-now” pictures of former players. This year, photos have included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Barack Obama.

The enthusiasm of the young players at the Little League World Series is contagious. Their skills, sportsmanship, dedication and determination are remarkable.

The camaraderie developed among the young players from around the world is unique. For the two weeks they live in community. They swim and play ping-pong in their residential village and start friendships with members of other teams.

During the tournament, nothing beats the sight of the kids on their cardboards sliding down the spectator hills that surround the two Little League stadiums in Williamsport, where admission is free. The Major League players arriving on Sunday have been known to join the sliding.

Up the hill from the two stadiums is The Little League Museum, open for visits daily year-round.