SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT — A newly-built Player Wellness Center will serve as the medical hub next month when hundreds of players from around the nation arrive in Williamsport for the Little League Baseball World Series.

Little League International and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) North Central PA hosted a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony on Wednesday afternoon inside the Dr. Creighton J. Hale International Grove on the Little League International Complex. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of last year’s World Series.

“No one saw COVID coming. As disappointing as it was last year to have to cancel the Little League World Series and all our highest-level tournaments, we said we would do everything we can in 2021 to get the kids back here and have a World Series,” said Little League President/CEO Stephen D. Keener. “One of the things we felt important to do in as safe and responsible a manner as possible, we really needed outside independent expertise to guide us in our plan. UPMC stepped forward.”

The 16 teams that will arrive in less than a month will have “access to world-class care that UPMC provides,” Keener added.

The hub, which will service all players, coaches and managers during their stay, was built in the summer of 2020 to replace the former Little League Infirmary with a modern facility in order to accommodate the expansion of the World Series from 16 teams to 20 teams, starting in 2022.

Designed as an onsite medical clinic, the new center is available 24/7 to the players, coaches and managers during their time in Williamsport and features a waiting room, two exam rooms, three patient rooms and an additional patient room fully outfitted with a private bathroom and overnight sleeping accommodations in case of the need for medical isolation. The facility is also ADA accessible and provides easy access for emergency personnel in the event of an emergency transport situation.

The former facility was an old two-story home converted into a medical facility. The new facility is a permanent location with state-of-the-art equipment, about three times the size of the former location, said Keener.

Each summer, UPMC North Central PA provided support to Little League and the World Series, including medical services for fans and visitors, exclusive medical care to World Series participants, and additional staffing and services to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all who attended. The center will be staffed by medical personnel from UPMC.

“We’re very proud to be part of it,” said Steve Johnson, the president of UPMC in North Central PA. “For us, we look at this relationship as an investment with a community partner but also in the lives of young men and women who are learning about leadership, learning about teamwork, and learning how to win and lose, and to do so in a way where kids are still kids and still show the respect and love for each other that the world needs more of.”

Johnson said a facility like this to assist in today’s environment as medical professionals continue to fight COVID “can’t be overstated in terms of its value and importance.”

“This is a state-of-the-art facility able to deal with virtually any medical emergency we may face,” said Johnson. “It’s like going into your primary care physician’s office. What you would expect to see in a primary care physician’s office, you’ll see here. You’ll see exam rooms with typical equipment available to our physicians and physicians assistants to aid in the care of anyone who may need this facility.”

The Little League World Series starts Aug. 19 and ends Aug. 29.

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