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Unfortunately, LLWS draws a walk

It’s the time of year when kids from around the world are in South Williamsport to play baseball.

But not this summer.

The Little League World Series was canceled for the first time in its 73-year history because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the innocence of 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League, the World Series was no match for the pandemic, which has halted society around the world.

Late August, and we aren’t watching kids from different countries and cultures playing the game they love and having the time of their young lives doing it.

Unreal.

That’s a shame for the kids, who grow up envisioning playing baseball on Little League’s biggest stage at Lamade and Volunteer stadiums.

That’s a shame for Williamsport, which reigns as capital of youth baseball for 10 days in August and has hosted the iconic tournament since 1947.

The Little League World Series is a special draw for fans. No wealthy superstars, just kids having fun playing baseball with an abundance of camaraderie and sportsmanship. The level of play is quality, too.

It’s family friendly with activities for all ages. Admission and parking are free and food is inexpensive. The atmosphere is electric but cozy with fans surrounding Lamade Stadium, the majority of them sitting on the hillside.

Little League president and CEO Steven Keener made the announcement canceling the LLWS and all qualifying region tournaments on April 30.

The MLB Little League Classic between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox at BB&T Ballpark at historic Bowman Field also was canceled. The Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels will play in next year’s classic.

Keener said it would have been impossible and irresponsible to conduct the LLWS amid ongoing restrictions on large gatherings and travel. He made the right call.

The World Series draws between 300,000 and 400,000 fans annually. However, when Red Land, a team from the Harrisburg-York area, participated in the 2015 tournament, attendance swelled to a record 470,000.

Cancellation of the LLWS will have a $35 million to $40 million impact on the Williamsport area economy, according to Jason Fink, president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming County Chamber of Commerce.

The hospitality industry, already reeling from the pandemic, will be the hardest hit. Hotels and motels in the area are filled this time of year with fans in town to watch the world series.

Little League involves 2.5 million kids over 6,500 programs in 84 countries and the world series has grown in popularity with all games televised. Little League will earn more than $9 million per year through 2022 from its ESPN/ABC broadcast contract.

Keener said the World Series will return “bigger and better than ever” in 2021. The 2021 LLWS is scheduled for August 18-29.

Little League announced last year the 2021 series would be expanded from 16 to 20 teams. Expansion will add two additional teams from the United States and two international teams.

Next year was to be the 75th LLWS, but that milestone tournament has been pushed back to 2022.

The Little League World Series was canceled, but some leagues in the Altoona area conducted regular seasons. Here’s a tip of the cap to the league officials who made it happen.

Kids had their world turned upside down and playing baseball, even an abbreviated season, gave them a sense of normalcy.

No cardboard box sled rides down the hillside at Lamade Stadium. No pin trading. No Little League World Series in 2020.

See you in 2021.

Hopefully.

Paul Lilly, who supplies the Mirror with a daily trivia question, grew up in Lock Haven.

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