By Greg Stevenson
It’s where dreams of playing baseball on the grandest stage on television in front of the entire world begin. It’s where boys that haven’t even reached their teenage years come to play the national pastime. It’s where fans can enjoy the ideals that baseball is supposed to promote—like fair play and sportsmanship—but fail to get watching the pros. It’s why people congregate by the thousands to central Pennsylvania every August. It’s the Little League World Series.
Every year, right about the time University students return to school and start classes, 11- and 12-year-olds from eight regions in the United States and eight regions around the world travel to Williamsport, Pa. for the most notable championship in all of youth sports. Even ESPN and ABC bring camera crews to televise each of the games.
Teams this year came from the far reaches of the United States and the globe. The United States was represented by one team from each region—Fairfield, Conn. (New England); Toms River, N.J. (Mid-Atlantic); Columbus, Ga. (Southeast); Plymouth, Minn. (Midwest); Auburn, Wash. (Northwest); Waipahu, Hawaii (West); and Pearland, Texas (Southwest); Hamilton, Ohio (Great Lakes).
In the international bracket, the eight regions were represented by teams from Vancouver, Canada; Tokyo, Japan; Manati, Puerto Rico (Caribbean); Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei (Asia-Pacific); Chitre, Panama (Latin America); Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (MEA); Nuevo Laredo, Mexico (Mexico); and Ramstein AB, Germany (Europe).
This World Series was the first to be played with a double-elimination format. In the past, the championship rounds were determined based on teams’ records in pool play, but the 2010 tournament was changed to more of a knockout-style.
The teams from Japan and Chinese Taipei emerged victorious in the opening rounds of the international bracket to set up what became an epic battle for the international championship last Saturday. Trailing 2-1 for most of the contest, the Japanese knocked home the tying run with one out in the bottom of the sixth and final inning of regulation. Japan capped off the come-from-behind win with an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, earning a spot in the World Championship game.
Later on that day, for the U.S. Championship, Hawaii turned in an all-around offensive performance en route to a 10-0 victory that ended in the fifth inning due to the Little League’s 10-run mercy rule. This was Waipahu’s second World Championship appearance in three years, after their 12-3 victory over Mexico in the championship game in 2008.
This year’s championship was not as favorable for Waipahu. The Japanese scored first and did not let the lead go, winning 4-1. It was the seventh time a team from Japan won the Little League World Series, and the fourth time since 2001.
But, just like it has been since it began in 1947, there were no losers this past weekend. The experience of reaching and playing in Williamsport puts the sixteen teams in an elite fraternity of athletes. And for the families of the players and fans, there is nothing better than watching our national pastime in its purest form.