Little League International announced it has canceled its World Series and region tournaments for the first time in the organization’s history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the organization did not cancel regular season activities.
Because each state and community will have different guidance for resuming organized youth sports, Little League International encouraged volunteers to confirm with local and state health officials before resuming Little League activity. Playing opportunities could include not only regular season activities, but opportunities for local district, and, perhaps, state all-star tournament play to provide players, especially those moving up to a new age division in 2021, a tournament experience, according to Little League.
The organization also announced it would commit approximately $1.2 million in support to local leagues. These funds will be available for local leagues to use on current balances, future affiliation, insurance fees, tournament enrollment and other Little League-related expenses.
After an assessment of the impact the pandemic has had on the 6,500 community-based Little League programs in 84 countries, Little League officials made the decision to cancel tournaments based on direction from government and health authorities, as well as its board of directors.
“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,” Little League President and CEO Stephen Keener stated. “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 … it will not be possible to proceed with our tournaments as we’ve hosted them for nearly 75 years.”
Little League officials said teams from around the world reported they would be unable to participate or travel to the tournaments. Extensive testing and mitigation protocols would also have been needed to be in place for the events, which the organization indicated would have been difficult to organize.
Next year was scheduled to be the playing of the 75th Little League Baseball World Series: that celebration will now take place in 2022.
As a result of the decision, the 2020 MLB Little League Classic, originally scheduled for August 23 between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, has also been canceled, according to Little League officials. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have already committed to returning for the 2021 MLB Little League Classic.
“Delivering this news comes with a very heavy heart. 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,” Hugh Tanner, Little League International’s board of directors chairman stated. “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.”