It’s been 35 years since Coquitlam Little League sent a team to represent Canada at the Little League World Series, that begins Thursday in Williamsport, Penn. So for those who’ve never paid much attention to the annual tournament for 11- and 12-year-old baseball players from around the world — or for those who’ve forgotten since 1984 — here’s a primer on what the event is all about.
Little League baseball was founded in 1939, by Carl E. Stotz, in Williamsport. He was its commissioner until 1955, when he left the organization because of differences over its commercialization and control. He died in 1992.
LIttle League now has nearly 200,000 teams in more than 80 countries around the world.
The first Little League World Series was played in 1947.
Where it’s played
The 75-acre Little League International Complex in Williamsport is comprised of two stadiums — Lamade and Volunteer — as well as practice diamonds, a museum, and dormitories.
Lamade Stadium was built in 1959 and lights were installed in 1992. The grandstand holds about 3,300 people. But the hillside beyond the outfield fence can accommodate up to 30,000 more spectators.
Volunteer Stadium opened in 2001, when the tournament was expanded to 16 teams. Both fields have identical dimensions — 225 ft. to the outfield walls.
The highest estimated attendance for a Little League World Series game was 45,716, set in 2015 for a U.S. championship game between the Mid-Atlantic region and the Southwest region.
Admission to games during the tournament is free.
The Little League World Series is comprised of 16 teams — eight representing regions from the United States, and eight international teams. Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico have an automatic bid into the tournament. A Canadian team first participated in 1952.
The U.S. teams comprise a bracket that competes a double-elimination tournament structure in the first round, while the international teams comprise their own bracket. The top two teams in each bracket then play each other to determine a U.S. champion and an International champion. Those winners then play for the World Series championship, while the losers play a consolation game.
No Canadian team has ever won the Little League World Series, and only one — Stoney Creek, Ont., — played in the final, in 1965.
Teams from Taiwan have won the most Little League World Series — 17.
Teams that qualify to play in the World Series, after winning their way up through local and regional tournament, don’t pay anything to get to Williamsport. Little League International and its sponsors cover travel expenses and provide all meals during the event. Players stay in dormitories that are part of the Little League complex.
More than 55 participants in the Little League World Series have gone on to play in Major League Baseball. A total of 19 girls have played in the tournament; the first was Victoria Roche, from Belgium, in 1984.
The Little League World Series also features a Major League Baseball game. The Chicago Cubs play the Pittsburg Pirates at nearby Bowman Field on Sunday, Aug. 18. There’s also a special exhibition game on Aug. 24, between two teams from Little League’s Challenger division that is comprised of more than 30,000 kids with physical and intellectual challenges who play in over 900 leagues around the world. This year’s teams are from Massachusetts and Peterborough, Ont.
This year, there’s also a home run derby championship for the top eight Little League baseball hitters and top eight Little League softball hitters.
Unique rules of Little League baseball
Little League baseball also has some unique rules. Among them:
• Pitchers are limited to a maximum of 85 pitches per game. If a pitcher throws more than 66 pitches in a game, they then have to wait four calendar days before they can pitch again.
• Each of a team’s 13 players must play in every game for at least one at bat.
• Games are six innings. If the score is tied after six innings, the teams play one extra inning as normal. But if they’re still tied, the offensive teams will begin their at bat in subsequent half innings with a runner on second base.
How to watch
The Little League World Series will be broadcast in Canada by TSN. Their schedule can be found here.
And of course, there will be game reports and reaction here at tricitynews.com.