As many of you (painfully) remember, there was no national or international summer tournaments for Little League® Baseball and Softball in 2020. The state, regional, and international youth baseball tournament schedule in 2020 was cancelled unilaterally due to the safety concerns stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. Like most organizations, Little League® was hopeful for 2021 and that tournament play would return, much to the delight of millions of baseball players, fans, families, coaches, and organizations worldwide. Yesterday afternoon, I received notifications by Little League® Baseball and Softball’s official Facebook page regarding an update on their 2021 Tournament season.
According to a recent press release statement on Facebook, which can be found on the official website of Little League® Baseball and Softball, “The Little League® Baseball and Softball World Series events will be held, as scheduled, this August in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and Greenville, North Carolina (respectively), featuring teams solely from the United States.” This means no international competition from previous powerhouse regions like Japan, South Korea, The Caribbean Islands, or Latin America. There will be no International teams that fly in from countries as far away as Australia and Africa and the Asian Pacific Region. This summer, a United States team will most definitely take home the title. Here are more details about what leagues, players, and families can expect this summer.
So, who will be participating in the Little League® World Series in Williamsport, PA? Well, there are now 8 regions that teams will be competing in, shown on the map below, courtesy of Little League®. If you are keeping score here in Rhode Island, we are in the “New England” region. And new this summer, the top 2 teams from each region will advance. In years passed, only the Regional Tournament champion has advanced to Williamsport to take on the other United States and International Champions. That could be an interesting situation for this summer!
So, if my math is correct, 16 teams will compete for the title of 2021 Little League® World Series Champions. Here are some additional key points that the press release updated everyone on:
- Testing – According to the press release, “All players and coaches will undergo COVID-19 testing prior to and upon arrival at their tournament location and will have significantly limited contact from other individuals until negative tests can be confirmed. Unvaccinated participants will also receive regular COVID-19 tests throughout the tournament.“
- Vaccinations – Coaches and players are “strongly encouraged to be vaccinated” and “All other adults on-site at the events (Little League International-appointed staff, volunteer umpires, officials, etc.), with the exception of team coaches and managers, will be required to provide proof of receiving their final dose of their vaccine at least two weeks prior to the start of their tournament event.“
- Off Field Activities – This one is tough to announce. I have befriended so many coaches and parents from Rhode Island who attended the LLWS and had their children experience other cultures, speak to other teams (US and International), hang out in social situations with players from competing teams – all of them having an absolute BLAST and creating wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. Not going to happen in 2021 because according to the press release, “Participants will be limited in their off-field activities to mitigate the risk of exposure during the tournament.“
- Spectators – Some good news here regarding spectators. According to the press release, “family members and a limited number of individuals associated with the participating teams,” will be allowed to attend games.
Bristol, Connecticut will once again be the host location for the New England Regional Tournament scheduled to begin in July, 2021. The Little League® World Series will take place in Williamsport, PA from August 19-29. For more information on the Little League® World Series, go to their official website at www.littleleague.org. With Rhode Island Little League seasons just beginning, the anticipation and excitement to get to Bristol, CT is already building!!! As always, if there are any further updates, I will post them here and on social media.