The Daily Item
The Little League World Series will return to South Williamsport this summer with 16 American teams playing in front of limited crowds.
The Little League International Board of Directors approved a plan recommended by its Pandemic Response Advisory Commission involving COVID-19 mitigation measures including testing and vaccinations. Little League officials also announced the Little League Softball World Series will be played in Greenville, North Carolina, this summer.
Traditionally, the series has included eight American teams and eight international teams. Having international teams deal with travel restrictions, quarantines, testing and vaccine availability meant their participation was not feasible in 2021. Last year’s World Series was canceled completely as COVID-19 spread around the globe.
“Little League puts the health, well-being, and safety of all players and volunteers first, and we are looking forward to hosting the Little League Regional and World Series tournaments with that aim this summer,” said Dr. Daniel Lueders, commission chair, Little League International Board of Directors Member, and UPMC Sports Medicine physician and assistant professor. “The commission’s recommendations reflect the most current CDC protocols, as well as direct input from state and local public health authorities. The advice of the leading public health, pediatric medicine, epidemiology, mental health, and operations experts on the commission prioritize the health and safety of the players, volunteers, family and fans above all else. We are confident that the implementation of these recommendations by Little League International will permit a safe and successful competition this summer and preserve the spirit and the experiences that make those events so special.”
The first international teams to compete in the series came when a Canadian team played in 1952. The first international champion was Monterey, Mexico, in 1957. In the 73-year history of the World Series, international teams have won 37 titles and the U.S. has won 36, including the 2019 champion from Lousiana.
In 2019, in addition to the eight teams from the U.S., international teams from South Korea, Australia, Canada, Curacao, Italy, Japan, Venezuela and Mexico all participated.
“The commission recommended that the Little League Baseball and Softball World Series feature teams only from the United States,” Little League said in a statement. “Where appropriate, international teams may continue to play based upon their country’s guidelines and restrictions. Little League International anticipates continuing with its plans to expand the Little League Baseball World series to 20 teams and the Little League Softball World Series to 12 teams in 2022. The softball series will have 10 teams this summer.
“This decision reflects an unparalleled level of care and consideration for the players, families, and the myriad of stakeholders that it takes to hold the baseball and softball Little League World Series,” Little League Board member JoJo Rinebold said. “Little League International’s diligence in consulting with countless experts can only be eclipsed by the excitement Little League International has for baseball and softball teams competing again in one of the premier annual sporting events.”
Among the rules and recommendations in effect for the tournament scheduled to run Aug. 19-29:
- All players and coaches will undergo COVID-19 testing prior to and upon arrival at their tournament location and will have significantly limited contact from other individuals until negative tests can be confirmed. Unvaccinated participants will also receive regular COVID-19 tests throughout the tournament.
- Coaches and managers are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated, and, should a vaccine be available for age-appropriate players, vaccination would be also recommended for players if appropriate, but not required. All other adults on-site at the events (Little League International-appointed staff, volunteer umpires, officials, etc.), with the exception of team coaches and managers, will be required to provide proof of receiving their final dose of their vaccine at least two weeks prior to the start of their tournament event.
- Spectator attendance will be restricted at Little League Baseball and Softball Region and World Series tournaments. Accommodations will be made for family members and a limited number of individuals associated with the participating teams. Those attending are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated and may be subject to additional screening measures to be announced at a later date.