It’s an event that takes place every August, as the summer wanes and September starts to creep in. As kids prepare to go back to school, a special group of youngsters takes the field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for an event that they will never forget: the Little League World Series.
Ever since 1947, the Little League World Series has showcased the talent of kids 11-13 years old from around the globe. Unlike the MLB, this is a true World Series with eight teams from eight American regions and eight teams from eight international regions. There’s an American bracket and an international bracket, and the two teams that emerge victorious meet each other for the right to be called World Champion. It’s a lot of fun for everyone involved, and there’s a lot of spirit from players, coaches, and parents. Local communities rally behind their youth, cheering them on from home and gathering together to watch their games. Kids make new friends with their fellow competitors, trade gear and memorabilia, play video games and ping-pong during their off time, and still find time to be acquaintances even on the field. It’s a friendly competition and most people know that, which makes it so much fun to watch. Of course, there’s still drama, with great defensive plays, heart-stopping finishes, and dramatic walk-offs. For every moment of jubilation, there’s one of sadness, as kids who are still maturing have to deal with the reality of a crushing loss. Plenty of tears are shed on the field, and it’s a learning moment for these young boys. Overall, it’s one of the most unique sporting events, taking everyday kids and putting them on a stage fit for professional sports. There isn’t anything in sports more innocent or pure than that.
I still remember where I was when I first discovered the Little League World Series. It was the summer of 2004 and I was at my grandparents’ house in Los Angeles, looking for something to watch on television, when I saw “Little League World Series” in the channel guide. 2004 just so happened to be the first year I played youth baseball, and I was intrigued to see fellow kids playing baseball on ESPN. The rest is history, and I’ve followed the Little League World Series almost every summer since then. There were the peak years of 2007-2009 when I was fully invested because the kids were my age and I could relate to them. I have plenty of memories watching it during my yearly trips to LA. There were the summer camp years from 2010-2012 where I missed some of the World Series because I was at summer camp, but nevertheless followed it once I got home. Even now when I’m in my 20s and the participants are now almost ten years younger than me, I still watch it every summer. It just never loses its charm. I can watch the MLB and get mad when my team isn’t playing well. But then I can watch these kids in peace and not get mad because they’re just kids. Some might even grow up and make the Major Leagues, like many Little Leagues have done in the past. The Little League World Series may signal the end of summer, but for these kids it’s the best summer sendoff they could possibly get.
The 2018 Little League World Series gets underway in just two days, and kids from all over the world have flocked to Pennsylvania to compete. From Staten Island to Honolulu, Seoul to Puerto Rico, Barcelona to Australia, there will be many national and international flavors over the span of 11 days. Friends will be made, dramatic moments will happen, and one team will go home as Little League Champions. Will it be Japan for sixth time in nine years? Or will someone else surprise and take the title? Tune in to ESPN, hear that sweet ping of aluminum, and find out.