International teams have dominated LL World Series
SHEPHERDSTOWN – Throughout the majority of April, Little League games were being played in between the raindrops. When May came, the whole month was dedicated to more regular season games. By June 10, the Little League regular season had run its course the same as the public school’s schedule.
School was out. The Little League regular season was over. Bring on the 45 days of tournaments that finally lead to South Williamsport, Pennsylvania and the Little League World Series with its 16 teams and ESPN television coverage.
Due to the Little League authorities’ chagrin, by 1974 they had banned all international teams from even participating in the World Series. Taiwan and Japan had dominated the competition — winning so often that any World Series title won by a team from America was an aberration.
International teams were later allowed back in South Williamsport, and from 2010 through 2017, Japan has won five of the last eight titles.
Historically, since the World Series began, Taiwan has 17 championships, Japan 11 and teams from the state of California have won seven titles.
When the annual World Series teams gather in South Williamsport for another go at beating the world and returning home with a hard-won championship, there will be 16 teams housed in dorms on the Little League grounds, ready to get started at either Lamade Stadium or Volunteer Stadium, where games are played day and night.
The United States sends teams from eight regions — Southeast, Southwest, West, Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, Midwest and New England.
Little League, Inc., reports that 96 percent of the players in its worldwide organization play in the United States. Only four percent of the players are from elsewhere around the globe.
The internationals come from eight regions as well — Japan, Latin America, Asia Pacific and Middle East, Caribbean, Mexico, Australia, Canada and Europe and Africa (combined).
State champions from West Virginia play in the Southeast Region. There never has been a state champion from West Virginia to reach the World Series in South Williamsport.
It’s late August when the World Series is played.
Although the age for eligibility has been tinkered with numerous times over the decades since the first World Series was held, this year any player turning 13 on May 1 or later can play.
Anybody watching the World Series on television will quickly realize how many athletes are already 13 years old. The long-held date was August 1, and the best teams had players who were in the seventh grade when the season opened.
Next year, the age determination will be moved back to August 31. Barring a monsoon-filled World Series that postpones games right and left, there will be no players over age 12 in the showcased event.
In the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, the Jefferson County Little League began participating in the Little League postseason in 1953, with players from Shepherdstown, Bakerton, Leetown, Millville and Harpers Ferry being chosen to a so-called All-Star team. Sharpsburg, Maryland fielded a team in that league but couldn’t provide any All-Stars.
The Jefferson County Little League came into existence in 1984, and places a team in the West Virginia Major Division District tournament to this day. Charles Town and Ranson had their own Little League until just recently, but are now without a league.
It’s just July 13, but the Little League regular season has been completed for over a month. The schools won’t open for about another month. That month won’t have Little League baseball for any of those not selected to the All-Stars team. And if history repeats itself, that team representing Jefferson County Little League will have been eliminated before Little League’s World Series.