Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Little League World Series Preview

It’s close to that time of year where the world focuses on Williamsport, PA for the Little League World Series. If you haven’t watched this event in the past, I would highly recommend it. This is about as pure as you can get in sports. Sure, it’s more commercial than ever before, but these kids live and breathe baseball. This is the chance they have to be in the spotlight just like their Major League idols. I’ve noticed there is at least one young lady that plays among the boys every year as well. I would have absolutely given my right arm for that opportunity. Maybe someday there will be more that play…

Some of these kids do make it to the big leagues – just ask the likes of George Brett, Catfish Hunter, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, and Carl Yastrzemski. You’ll also find the occasional son of a Major Leaguer on the field today as well and plenty of passionate friends and family in the crowd.

This year the event will have the aid of instant replay. I’m guessing that this means the event has really become quite serious. Who would have thought instant replay would be used here? In addition, there are countries that are participating for the first time this year like India and Australia.

The tournament format has teams vying for a position in the main event starting in mid-June. In the United States there are District and then Sectional Tournaments that lead into the State contests and then Regionals. The divisions are (as listed on the Unpage):

“Great Lakes Region (Indianapolis, Indiana) -- Champions from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Mid-Atlantic Region (Bristol, Connecticut) -- Champions from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Midwest Region (Indianapolis, Indiana) -- Champions from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and North/South Dakota.

New England Region (Bristol, Connecticut) -- Champions from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Northwest Region (San Bernardino, California) -- Champions from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

Southeast Region (Gulfport, Florida) -- Champions from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Southwest Region (Waco, Texas) -- Champions from Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas East, and Texas West.

West Region (San Bernardino, California) -- Champions from Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Northern California, Southern California, and Utah.

The Canadian Region tournament rotates from site to site each year. The tournament typically moves from one province to another, and when it is scheduled to be in a particular province, interested leagues submit bids to host the tournament. The five survivors of provincial tournaments compete along with a host team in a six-team tournament. After round-robin and playoff games, the tournament winner advances to the Little League World Series as the Canadian champion.

Other region tournaments typically use a similar round-robin or pool format that is followed by playoff and championship games. Like Canada, Japan and Mexico send their national champion to the Little League World Series. The other six Little League World Series qualifiers are champions from the Asia-Pacific Region, the Caribbean Region, the European Region, the Latin American Region, and the Middle East-Africa (MEA) Region. The European and MEA regions replace the Transatlantic and EMEA regions beginning with the 2008 international tournament.”

Local news usually covers teams around the States that are in contention for the tournament such as this one in Texas. ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC will televise the games from Williamsport. The Little League World Series takes place from August 15 – 24 this year.

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