The not-so "Little" League World Series

By Chris McCree

Sports Editor

Although we all grew up playing a variety of sports, Little League baseball seems to play a part in every guy’s childhood. We can all remember the days of putting on those oversized uniforms and trying to hit a homerun every single time we stepped up to the plate, but these simple experiences pale in comparison to those of the 11-13-year-olds taking part in the Little League World Series just minutes away in Williamsport, Pa. For these kids, Little League baseball has taken on a whole new meaning. It is not purely about having a good time – it has become a grueling and sometimes relentless pursuit of winning.

Started in 1947 as a local tournament involving teams from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Little League World Series has quickly evolved into the largest youth sports program in the world with nearly 180,000 teams from across the globe taking part. For the first decade of play, the tournament consisted solely of teams from the United States, but expanded its field internationally in the 1960s and has since crowned an international champion 30 times.

Currently, the field is divided into two brackets, one national and one international, where the winners of each bracket eventually meet in a single-elimination championship game. Each team hoping to participate must undergo a series of qualification rounds and with only 16 teams gaining entry each year, qualification is, in itself, quite an accomplishment. If a team is able to get past the various local, state and regional qualifying series, they must then win four more Series games for a chance at the title. 

In recent years, the tournament has achieved astonishing levels of popularity, especially in the United States, with attendance to this year’s championship game reaching just under 10,000 fans. What’s more, broadcasts of each game are aired regularly on ESPN, which raises questions about how the added pressure and attention affects these kids. For the most part, these concerns remain untouched with so many people claiming that the tournament purely presents these kids with a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to enjoy some time in the spotlight. Yet, with thousands of teams participating at all levels, the competition is fierce, and the added pressure to succeed is huge. 

Ultimately, there is a fine line between great and harmful entertainment, and the Little League World Series is currently teetering on the edge. For now, not much needs to be changed, but with ratings reaching new highs each year, we can only imagine how far ESPN may go.

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