Kids from around the world will be traveling to South Williamsport this week to play baseball.
Kids from Hamamatsu City, Japan, and Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Kids from Orenjestad, Aruba, and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Kids from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and Maracay, Venezuela.
Eight international teams and eight teams from the United States will compete in the 65th Little League World Series, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, Aug. 28.
Youth baseball's most watched tournament will utilize a modified double-elimination format this year for the first time since it went to 16 teams in 2001.
The teams will be split into two eight-team brackets, a United States bracket and an International bracket. Since 2001, the teams were split into four four-team pools.
The modified format eliminates the "if necessary" games from the tournament and adds a day to the schedule to spread out the games and aid teams with their pitching strategy.
All 32 tournament games will be televised live and in high definition by either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.
Admission and parking are free.
When the Little League World Series rolls around each year, it prompts a journey down memory lane - a journey that for me goes back to the 1950s while growing up in nearby Lock Haven.
It takes me back to the other side of the Susquehanna River and the Original Little League Field on Fourth Street, across from historic Bowman Field, home of the Williamsport Crosscutters, a short-season (New York-Penn League) Class A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Original Field was a true original. It was a small facility with a wooden grandstand, no lights and was well maintained.
The Little League World Series was played at the Original Field from 1947 through 1958, then moved to Lamade Stadium.
It was at Original Field in 1957 that I watched Angel Macias of Monterrey, Mexico, pitch a perfect game. Macias' perfecto was the first in a championship game, and Monterrey was the first non-United States team to win the World Series.
The world championship for Monterrey was a perfect ending to a feel-good story. The undersized and financially-strapped Monterrey players crossed the Rio Grande River on foot and walked 10 miles to a field in Texas, where they earned a berth in the Little League World Series and a trip to Williamsport.
Another memorable championship game occurred in 1960 at Lamade Stadium, when Joe Mormello of Levittown pitched a no-hitter and logged 16 strikeouts. Mormello recorded 16 of the 18 outs via strikeouts in the six-inning game.
Most memorable for me was going with my dad. He has since passed away, but I've been back numerous times with my kids, and it's still special.
The stage for the Little League World Series is much bigger and brighter now. The tournament attracts hundreds of thousands of fans, and games are televised, some in prime time, to millions worldwide.
What makes the Little League World Series so popular? Here's my answer:
n Fans have the opportunity to watch kids from different countries around the world pour their all into a baseball game then exchange handshakes when it is over. See if the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox do that.
n Fans have the opportunity to watch talented youngsters, like Enrique Penaloza of Mexico, who hit a home run last year that traveled an estimated 330 feet.
n Fans have the opportunity to experience a great atmosphere. The hillside around Lamade Stadium accommodates approximately 30,000 passionate, flag-waving fans for the championship games.
n Fans like the purity of Little League Baseball. These 11- and 12-year-olds play baseball for fun. They work hard and are sincere about the way the game is played.
Sure, some tears will be shed during the tournament, but minutes after the games are over, these kids are back enjoying the many fun activities at the Little League complex. After all, they have reached the goal of every kid who ever put on a Little League uniform.
The Little League World Series offers the proverbial "something for everyone."
Tournament sponsors such as Honda, Kellogg's, Russell Athletic and Subway, to name a few, have games and giveaways, including the popular World Series pins.
If you are interested in a non-baseball activity, bring some cardboard and join in the ride down the hillside. It's really fun when it rains.
In a few days, it will be time for another trip to South Williamsport to make some new memories. See you at the ballpark. Look for the guy with a Pittsburgh Pirates hat hanging out with Tony the Tiger.
Paul Lilly of Altoona spent 40 years working in the sports department and on the copy desk at the Mirror before leaving to pursue other interests. "Lill" still contributes a daily trivia question to the Mirror sports section.