No drugs. No suspensions. No bench-clearing brawls.
Simply baseball. Pure, untainted, true baseball.
Sure, it’s not perfect, but for a few weeks out of the controversy-heavy, drawn-out seasons of professional sports, the Little League World Series (LLWS) shines bright.
Founded in 1947, the LLWS is an annual tournament that consists of Little League baseball teams from 16 different regions across the world. Eight of these regions are spread across the United States, while the remaining eight come from Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa, Japan, Latin America, Mexico, and the Asia-Pacific and Middle East. The kids from each team range from 11 to 13 years old, and the series covers a two-week span televised by Disney’s ESPN.
As proponents of the annual event know, the LLWS receives as much recognition and viewership as it does due largely to the fact that it successfully accomplishes what the Major League Baseball and other professional sports leagues cannot: keeping the sport a sport, and not a theatrical mess.
Year after year and season after season, the MLB and its counterparts become swarmed in controversy. Just when baseball seemed to be exiting the branded “steroid” era that hindered the league for years, the plot thickened even more with the recent Biogenesis ordeal. A decade earlier, the MLB was thrust into the negative spotlight during the Sammy Sosa corked bat scandal. No matter the case, tribulation and controversy shroud professional and collegiate sports.
Yet through it all, the sports world continues turning. Every year, around mid-August in South Williamsport, Pa., the LLWS comes along, shining bright in a dark world of sports like a lighthouse beam in the dead of the night.
Everything about this tournament represents all that is good about the sport. Friends, family and fans get to watch 11 to 13-year-olds play the sport they love. Children interacting and communicating with children from the other side of the world is an amazing thing. The emotion that builds up after seeing players jubilantly celebrate with teammates after a nationally-televised win and immediately congratulate the losing team without a second thought about the cameras or fans is what baseball is all about.
No matter who takes home the trophy at the end of the double-elimination bracket, and no matter what country or city ends up on top at the end of the tournament, the truth is that these youths’ dreams, and the parents, coaches and families that have been with them through it all, have already come true. They came true the moment these players walked onto the field in front of millions of people, without a care for the stress, arguments or petty drama. That alone makes the LLWS quite possibly one of the most beautiful and refreshing spectacles in all of sports.