America's pastime is taking a timeout. The Little League World Series will not be played this summer for the first time in its 74-year history.
Citing global travel concerns and coronavirus testing and mitigation challenges, Little League International, which represents 6,500 community-based Little League® programs in 84 countries, announced Thursday that it was canceling its signature event in South Williamsport, Pa., and all related qualifying regional events around the world. This year's championship tournament was scheduled to take place Aug. 20-30.
“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,” said Stephen Keener, Little League president and CEO. “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.”
As a result, the approaching LLWS 75th anniversary will take place in 2022 instead of 2021.
In all, 82 regional qualifying tournaments serving seven separate World Series events have been canceled for 2020. These include the aforementioned LLWS, as well as Little League Softball® in Greenville, N.C.; Intermediate (50/70) Baseball in Livermore, Calif.; Junior League Baseball in Taylor, Mich.; Junior League Softball in Kirkland, Wash.; Senior League Baseball in Easley, S.C.; and Senior League Softball in Sussex County, Del.
“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,” said Hugh Tanner, Little League International Board of Directors chairman. “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.”
To assist the local Little League programs as they continue to assess their local operations, Little League International will be crediting all chartered programs with the affiliation fees paid for their chartered teams in 2020, which totals approximately $1.2 million in support to local leagues, according to the organization's official statement. These funds will be credited through Little League’s Data Center and be available for local leagues to use on current balances, future affiliation and insurance fees, tournament enrollment, and other Little League-related expenses.
As each state and community will have different guidance for resuming organized youth sports, Little League International strongly encourages volunteers to confirm with their local and state health officials that it is safe to do so before resuming Little League activity after May 11, the release further states. These playing opportunities could include not only regular season activities, but opportunities for local district, and, perhaps, state all-star tournament play to provide players, especially those moving up to a new age division in 2021, a tournament experience, if possible and safe.