Coronavirus prompts Little League World Series cancelation

COVID-19 wipes out event for first time in organization's 75-year history

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Although most sports were canceled weeks ago when the coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic, the Little League World Series was in limbo until officials confirmed Thursday the event will be postponed to 2021.

“This is a heartbreaking decision for everyone at Little League International, but more so for those millions of Little Leaguers who have dreamt of one day playing in one of our seven World Series events,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League president and CEO, in a press release. “After exhausting all possible options, we came to the conclusion that because of the significant public health uncertainty that will still exist several months from now.”

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The River Ridge, Louisiana, team takes a victory lap at Lamade Stadium after winning the Little League World Series Championship game against Curacao in South Williamsport, Pa. in 2019. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The decision was made after direction provided by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine and other senior public health officials and government leaders from locations where the organization's six other World Series are held.

“It will not be possible to proceed with our tournaments as we’ve hosted them for nearly 75 years,” Keener added.

There are 6,500 community-based Little League programs in 84 countries. However, with the novel coronavirus infecting more than 3 million people around the globe, the organization has been unable to host qualifying tournaments due to international travel restrictions and the testing and mitigation protocols it would require to hold such a large event.

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A youth baseball field sits empty on April 4, 2020, at Monroeville Park in Monroeville, Pa., amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Will Graves)

The cancelation includes 82 regional qualifying tournaments that were meant to take place at World Series events throughout seven states:

  • Little League Baseball – South Williamsport, Pa.
  • Little League Softball – Greenville, N.C.
  • Intermediate (50/70) Baseball – Livermore, Calif.
  • Junior League Baseball – Taylor, Mich.
  • Junior League Softball – Kirkland, Wash.
  • Senior League Baseball – Easley, S.C.
  • Senior League Softball –Sussex County, Del.

Since the 74th iteration of the Little League has been pushed to 2021, the 75th Little League Baseball World Series will take place in 2022.

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The 2020 MLB Little League Classic presented by GEICO, which was scheduled for Aug. 23 and would have been between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, has also been canceled. Major League Baseball is looking to bring the series back to Williamsport next August.

Little League International is crediting all chartered programs that have paid affiliation fees for 2020, which totals to about $1.2 million. The credit will be available so local leagues can use funds on current balances, future affiliation and insurance fees, tournament enrollment and other related expenses.

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, right, hands a commemorative pin to Barrington, Rhode Island, player Owen Pfeffer in the stands at Lamade Stadium as they watched the 2019 Little League World Series tournament. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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“Delivering this news comes with a very heavy heart," said Hugh E. Tanner, chairman of the Little League International board of directors. "We have never had to cancel our World Series tournaments, but, right now, as our world comes together, we must do everything we can to help stem the spread of this deadly virus,” “While we take this pause from the World Series and Regional Tournaments this summer, we are committed to working with our volunteers and staff to continue to provide an unparalleled youth sports experience to all children and be back stronger than ever in 2021.”

Little League International is advising local leagues to not resume play until after May 11 and encourages volunteers to confirm the safety of organized youth sports with their local and state health officials.

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