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Updated: May 1, 2020
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
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(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos courtesy of Rein Merkx & Jac van Riel)

All seven Little League World Series and 82 Regional Tournaments cancelled

WILLIAMSPORT, Pennsylvania (USA) - Little League International on Thursday (April 30) announced that all seven World Series and 82 Regional Tournaments scheduled for this year have been cancelled due to the impact and the international measures taken against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is the first time in its almost 75-year history that the Little League World Series will not be played. Also, because of this decision, the fourth Major League Baseball Little League Classic has been cancelled. With these cancellations, unfortunately, the international baseball and softbal-calender becomes emptier and emptier what tournaments are concerned.

Little League Baseball and Softball was founded in 1939 and is the world’s largest organized youth sports program. There are millions of Little League-players and more than one million adult volunteers in every American State and in more than 80 countries.

Annually, Little League International organizes seven World Series in different age groups in baseball and softball. The history began in 1947 when the first Little League Baseball World Series was held for players aged 10-12. Since then, the event has been staged annually in August. The tournament takes place at Howard J. Lamade Stadium and Volunteer Stadium in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, which has been the home of the World Series for 61 years.

Since 2017, a regular season Major Legue Baseball-game is played during the Little League World Series in South Williamport, which is part of Williamsport, where the headquarters of Little League International is located. This year, on August 23, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles were scheduled to play the MLB Little League Classic. In 2017, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals met in the first Classic. In the following year, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies played in Williamsport Last year, the Classic was played by Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates.

From 1961 on, Little League added more baseball-events. In 1961, the Senior League Baseball World Series (age 13-16), in 1981, the Junior League Baseball World Series (age 12-14) and in 2013, the Little League 50/70 Intermediate Baseball World Series (age 11-13). From 1974, Softball World Series have been added to the schedule. In 1974, the Little League Softball World Series (age 10-12) was first played, in 1976, the Senior League Softball World Series (age 13-16) was added and in 1999, the Junior League Softball World Series (age 12-14). In the past, there were two more World Series in the Big League-category (age 15-18). The baseball-editon was played in 1968-2016, the softball-Series in 1982-2016.

...Dutch Umpire Rein Merkx (second from right) with some...
...colleagues at the 2019 Junior League Softball...
...World Series in Kirkland, Washington...
(© Photo: Rein Merkx)
All seven World Series have their own home-site in the USA. As mentioned, the 74th Little League Baseball World Series was to be played in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the 47th Little League Softball World Series was to be played for the first time this year in Greenville, North Carolina, the 40th Junior League Baseball WS in Taylor, Michigan, which has been the home since its beginning, the 22nd Junior League Softball WS in Kirkland, Washington, where is has been played since the first tournament, the 60th Senior League Baseball WS in Easley, South Carolina, where the event is held since 2017, the 45th Senior League Softball WS was to be played for the 20th year in Sussex County, Delaware and the 8th Little League Intermediate WS in Livermore, California, which is the site since its first edition. Easley has been the site of the Big League Baseball World Series in 2001-2016.

The World Series were dominated by teams from Taiwan from 1972 through 1996. The country is the record-holder with 59 World Series-titles in baseball (18 Big League, 17 Little League, 17 Senior League, 7 Junior League). Other countries that had successful teams are Japan, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, South Korea, Curaçao, Panama, Dominican Republic, Aruba and Canada. Teams from Curaçao won the Little League World Series (2004), the Junior League (2008) and Senior League (2002, 2018). A team from Aruba won the Senior League World Series in 2010. In the last few years, several teams from the Netherlands participated in the World Series-tournaments after having captured the title at the European/Africa Regional Tournament.

To reach the World Series, Regional Tournaments are organized in all American States and worldwide. Last year, international qualifying tournaments were held in Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Curaçao, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Poland, Puerto Rico and South Korea.

In Willemstad (Curaçao), the Caribbean Regional Tournament was held. In the Netherlands, the Europe/Africa Regional Tournaments were organized for Little League, Junior League and Senior League (all softball) at the sites of Roef! (Moergestel) and Jeka (Breda). In July, these events again were scheduled to take place in Moergestel and Breda.

Three umpires from the Netherlands Kingdom were assigned to officiate in this years World Series: Jules Martina from the Netherlands (Junior League Baseball, representing Europe/Africa Region), Rigobert Obispo from Curaçao (Little League Baseball, representing Latin America Region) and Rumini Modestro Thode from Curaçao (Senior League Softball, representing Latin America Region).

...Dutch Umpire Jac van Riel (center) at the 2019 Junior...
...League Softball World Series in Sussex County, Delaware...
(© Photo: Jac van Riel)
Last year, four Dutch umpires were active in a World Series, being Rik van de Keer (Junior League BB), Rein Merkx (Junior League SB), John van Renswoude (Little League SB) and Jac van Riel (Senior League SB). In previours years, Dutch umpires Wout van der Horst, Arjan Mens, Jean Rijksen and Fred Tempels also were assigned for a World Series.

In a statement Little League International said: ,,After a thorough assessment of the impact the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has had on 6,500 community-based Little League® programs in 84 countries and based upon the direction of governmental and public health authorities, and in consultation with medical professionals and our Board of Directors, Little League International has made the difficult and disappointing decision to cancel its seven World Series tournaments and their respective regional qualifying events. As we assessed the feasibility of including these tournament opportunities as part of that resumption of play, a number of factors went into the decision to cancel the World Series and Regional Tournaments, including:
- The inability to play qualifying tournaments in many of our U.S. and International regions, coupled with direction from federal officials regarding the complexity of international travel restrictions and immigration requirements.
- An indication from teams from around the globe that they will be unable to participate or travel to these tournaments.
- The testing and mitigation protocols that would need to be in place at these significant public events should an individual participating or attending an event be diagnosed with COVID-19.
The cancellation includes the 82 regional qualifying tournaments and their respective seven World Series events''.

Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO, added: ,,This is a heartbreaking decision for everyone at Little League International, but more so for those millions of Little Leaguers who have dreamt of one day playing in one of our seven World Series events. After exhausting all possible options, we came to the conclusion that because of the significant public health uncertainty that will still exist several months from now, and with direction from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, as well as senior public health officials and government leaders from locations where our other six World Series are held, as well as the their qualifying regional tournaments, it will not be possible to proceed with our tournaments as we’ve hosted them for nearly 75 years''.

Hugh E. Tanner, Little League International Board of Directors Chairman, said: ,,Delivering this news comes with a very heavy heart. We have never had to cancel our World Series tournaments, but, right now, as our world comes together, we must do everything we can to help stem the spread of this deadly virus. While we take this pause from the World Series and Regional Tournaments this summer, we are committed to working with our volunteers and staff to continue to provide an unparalleled youth sports experience to all children and be back stronger than ever in 2021''.

(April 30)

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