2022 Little League World Series: Celebrating 75 years of youth baseball at Williamsport, PA
75 years ago, in the shadow of the second World War, Williamsport, PA decided to hold the first Little League World Series, and it is still going strong
Just as the world was coming out of the horror of the second world war, and just as the cold war was feeling its first frost, the good folks of Williamsport, Pennsylvania decided to hold the first ever little league World Series. 75 years later, it is still being held there annually, a celebration of baseball and childhood.
In a world that is blighted with war, disease, and financial turmoil, we adults need more than ever to stop and realize one universal truth: there is nothing in the universe better than kids playing baseball.
Chicago Cubs manager David Ross agrees, saying, “It’s the passion and love for baseball in its purest form. To see the kids just going out and trying to win, not trying to take the limelight, to have no pressure from a contract, that’s what makes it so great. All their friends get to see them on TV. It’s the back end of the summer. They get to stay in the dorms. It’s all so real there.’’
Two-time MLB All-Star and 2015 Home Run Derby winner Todd Frazier counts winning the LLWS in 1998 for Toms River, New Jersey as one of the top highlights of his life. “Williamsport is the mecca for a 10- or 12-year-old; it’s like playing in a big league ballpark. It’s the coolest place ever. Nothing was cooler than playing against kids that couldn’t speak English. The differences in culture is what makes it so great. The friendships you make there last a lifetime.’’
Pennsylvania native, the late Tito Francona called the Little League World Series “the county fair meets baseball.’’ That, perhaps, is its biggest draw. It is an amalgamation of the two things in America that remind us of all that was once good in this land.
Once they get beyond this milestone, these 12-year-old players will begin to look for college scholarships or to make a name and get drafted by the MLB. That is the system and how it works. This is the last time that these kids will play baseball purely for the love of the game. Vanderbilt Commodores head baseball coach Tim Corbin put it succinctly, saying, “This is really the last time that these kids will play for the front of the jersey instead of the back of the jersey.”
The call of the LLWS is not restricted to the United States, though, with players and parents from all over the world meeting for a few weeks in the end of the summer in Pennsylvania to celebrate that common thread in all our lives, baseball. To see kids from Korea and Venezuela enjoying hot dogs and cotton candy with kids from Canada and California, nobody speaking each others’ language, everyone loving the experience, it is the stuff that prized life-long memories are made of.
Most little league players will never make it to Williamsport, but for those who do, it is a life-altering event. But before they all go back home and start their climb towards the big leagues, this is one last chance to extend the summer, perhaps the final true summer that they will have, and just be kids playing the best game in the world.