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Can girls participate in the Little League World Series?

The 2023 Little League World Series is underway with last year’s expanded 20 team roster in place, but is the tournament exclusive to boys?

Can girls participate in the Little League World Series?
Little League Wolrd Series

The 2023 Little League World Series got underway this week - the annual children’s baseball tournament is celebrating its 76th anniversary this year and an expanded format introduced last year will give more kids a chance to take part. The new format, introduced last year, sees two additional teams from the United States and two international teams added to take the total number of participating teams to 20.

The two new US regions are the Metro Region and the Mountain Region, which effectively divides the East and West Regions into three sub-regions. As for the International teams, a three-year rotation for direct entry into the Little League Baseball World Series will be established between Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Panama with two teams earning an automatic bid to the tournament each year and the remaining team competing through its respective regional tournament.

Charter amended in 1974

Generally, the Little League World Series has been open to children aged 13 or under - almost exclusively teenage boys. But that all changed forever 48 years ago when the Little League Federal Charter was amended, to allow girls to play as well.

Little League Baseball began in 1939 as a program for young boys during the summer months, with only three teams in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Little League Baseball continued to operate as a private organization until July 1964, when it petitioned Congress to become a federally chartered organization.

In December 1974, bill H.R. 8864 was approved and passed with the new legislation stating that girls would now be able to participate “on an equal basis to boys”.

The honor of being the first girl to play for a Little League baseball team is held by Kathryn Johnston who competed in a team of boys in Corning, New York in 1950 - initially, without the coach’s knowledge of her true gender. Posing as a boy, Johnston tucked her long hair under her baseball cap and used an assumed name in a trial with a Little League team and was good enough to be selected. However she felt that she had to come clean to the coach but when she explained that she was a girl, they allowed her to play anyway.

Today, nearly 360,000 girls play in the various divisions of Little League Softball for ages 5-18 and approximately 100,000 girls are currently involved in Little League Baseball programs - around one in seven Little Leaguers is a girl.

Victoria Roche makes history

To date, a total of 23 girls have played in the Little League Baseball World Series. The first girl to play at the World Series was Korean-born Victoria Roche, a reserve outfielder who played for European champions Brussels in 1984. Five year later, 12-year-old Victoria Brucker became the first girl to play for an American team and pitch in the World Series as well as the first girl to record a hit as her San Pedro team went on to beat Tampa to advance to the semi-finals.

Since then, many other girls have represented home and international teams at the Little League World Series. The most recent is Stella Weaver, a pitcher for Nolansville, Tennessee.

Girls who have played at the Little League World Series

1984 – Victoria Roche (Brussels, Belgium)

1989 – Victoria Brucker (San Pedro, CA, US)

1990 – Kelly Craig (Trail, BC, Canada)

1991 – Giselle Hardy (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia)

1994 – Krissy Wendell (Brooklyn Center, MN, US)

1998 – Sayaka Tsushima (Osaka, Japan)

1999 – Alicia Hunolt (Ramstein, Germany)

2001 – Tatiana Maltseva (Moscow, Russia)

2002 – Sanoe Aina (Waipahu, HI, US)

2003 – Merced Flores (Agana, Guam)

2004 – Meghan Sims (Owensboro, KY, US) and Alexandra Bellini (Ottawa, ON, Canada)

2008 – Brielle Meno (Yona, Guam)

2009 – Katie Reyes (Vancouver, BC, Canada) and Bryn Stonehouse (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia)

2013 – Eliska Stejsklova (Moravia, Czech Republic)

2014 – Emma March (Vancouver, BC, Canada) and Mo’ne Davis (Philadelphia, PA, US)

2019 – Maddy Freking (Coon Rapids, MN, US)

2021 – Ella Bruning (Abilene, TX, US)

2022 – Falynn Randall (Santa Clara, UT, US)

2023 – Stella Weaver (Nolensville, TN, US)