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Friday, October 07, 2022
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When the summer draws to a close, many people try to find a way to extend that feeling of relaxation that comes along with this time of year. Camp is ending for the kids and there’s the scrambling to get ready before school starts, yet we all wish there was a bit more vacation left in the tank.

At this point, I see and hear many people trying to go on short trips with their families to get some quality time in before the rubber hits the road and Labor Day (and all the labor it brings with it) arrives on our doorsteps.

The Little League World Series is the perfect trip for those looking for an amazing event that takes place at exactly the right time and is great for families with kids of all ages.

What Is the Little League World Series?

“World” is not a misnomer for this event. The Little League World Series (LLWS) is the culmination of the largest tournament of any kind. More than 200,000 teams from over 100 countries around the world compete until there are just 20 teams left. Those lucky few get the privilege of making the pilgrimage to the storied grounds of South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

A man from Williamsport named Carl Stotz created the first Little League in 1939. It was the first organized youth sports league that resembles what we have today. Before he had his ideas, youth sports were basically kids playing pickup games after school hours. Stotz had the idea to get local businesses to sponsor the teams so that the kids could get real uniforms and play out a season as cohesive teams in a small league. Everything started with that simple idea.

You might say that his idea went viral. The idea spread slowly through the state until 1947, when the first Little League outside of Pennsylvania began and Little League held the first tournament to crown a champion. That marked a chain reaction that would lead Little League to become much more than its humble beginnings. The next season featured 94 leagues, followed by 307 the year after. The story quickly spread all over the United States due to newspaper and television coverage.

Some of the first international leagues were formed in 1950. By 1953 the LLWS Championship was broadcast on ABC, and when 1955 came around, Little League was being played in every state in the USA. The current site of the LLWS was first used in 1959, and the tournament has stayed there ever since. With all this amazing history, there needed to be a place to house it. The Little League Museum was opened in 1982 and the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence was formed in 1988.

And though it honors history, Little League is also intent on looking towards the future. The tournament underwent its biggest change in 2001 as the second stadium opened in Williamsport and the LLWS expanded to 16 teams. Deeper fences in 2006, pitch count rules for pitchers in 2007, a massive television contract in 2008, and video replay review in 2010, have all recently helped the LLWS earn its reputation as a first-class operation with a focus on doing things the right way.

As of this summer, the LLWS has expanded to 20 teams (10 regions from the USA and 10 international regions) that will face off in a modified double elimination format. A region on the United States side is a group of states, while regions on the international side are composed of either individual or groups of countries (to account for the disparity in number of leagues per country). Each of the teams in the LLWS is an all-star team from a local league whose players were selected as the best from that league. That team faces several rounds of tournament play until they capture a regional title that earns them a spot in Williamsport.

What Do You Need to Know About Going to Williamsport?

A majority of people aren’t going to know where Williamsport is on a map, but if you need directions from the NYC area, it’s fairly simple. Get on Interstate 80 for just under three hours until you turn north on Route 15. In about 15 minutes, you’ll be driving right into the heart of Williamsport. And let’s just say you won’t need a ton of help to find the LLWS once you’re in town.

Would you be able to do this as one long day trip? Absolutely. Most days include games at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 p.m. Games are about two hours long (six innings), so the ambitious family could do two games and then drive back. (I wouldn’t suggest trying to attend the championship game unless you have a real desire to brave a six-digit attendance surrounding a very small field.)

As it turns out, there’s much more than just the games of the day going on in Williamsport, and you might want to stay the night. Not only will this allow you to have time to cover some other attractions, but it also means that you get to enjoy the night games. Seeing the perfectly manicured fields lit up like Major League ballparks is really a sight you shouldn’t miss.

You’d be correct to assume that finding a hotel near the LLWS can get a little tricky. With roughly 300,000 people visiting the area in less than two weeks, the local places are pretty booked up. That said, it is a tournament which means that teams and their families go home before the end. So just because you aren’t able to find something online in advance doesn’t mean that there won’t be something available on short notice.

While you can find your basic grocery items in local stores, there isn’t any kosher meat for sale anywhere nearby. That said, the recreational areas (where the parking is located) include places where you could bring a portable grill and make your own barbecue. Just make sure that you get acquainted with the new 2022 LLWS Bag Policy for what you can bring into the complex itself. For instance, you can bring in outside food, but not coolers. Go online to LittleLeague.org to check the rules.

As for those other attractions, the Little League Museum is a great way to spend an hour or two. Not only does it cover the history of Little League and the LLWS, it also has exhibits on the lives of those who went on from playing in Little League to doing great things in all areas of life. Sticking with baseball, a cool site to stop by is Original Little League Field. This is the field where the first games were ever played. There’s a free mini-museum, statues and plaques of all kinds, and you never know if you’ll see players from the past or present hanging out there.

For those looking for something that isn’t baseball-related, Reptileland is a great stop and less than 15 minutes away from the LLWS. An indoor/outdoor zoo with all kinds of reptiles and amphibians, this local gem has been around since 1964 and draws a great crowd. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, consider a cruise on the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat. The one-hour cruises on the Susquehanna River are a great way to see the beautiful nature of the surrounding area. Lastly, for the kids that want to burn off some energy, the Kaos Fun Zone is a massive indoor establishment in Williamsport that covers everything from arcade games to trampoline parks and from bowling alleys to laser tag.

The parking for the LLWS is free and free shuttles transport you to the complex where admission is (you guessed it) free.

What Should I Do Once I’m Inside?

There’s a lot to do, but the first thing you should do is check out the statue of the guy who made it all possible. A statue of Carl E. Stotz can be found on your left side as you first walk into the complex. What you do next depends on where you plan on sitting for the games at Lamade Stadium.

Of the two stadiums, Howard J. Lamade Stadium sits farther up the hill and is used as the site for the games on the USA side of the bracket. The reason for this is that while Lamade offers fewer seats than Volunteer Stadium, the hills beyond the outfield fence provide potential seating for many times more people than can fit in the stadium itself. Waiting on a very long line is essential if you want tickets for seats inside Lamade, whereas the hills are a free-for-all.

Unless you are one of the few attempting to wait in line for those tickets, most people bring chairs with them in order to sit on the hill. Others bring big blankets to sit on. But whatever your plan is, executing it should be a priority once you get through security at the gates of the complex. As the LLWS is a family atmosphere, people will leave their chairs for hours without fear that something will happen to their belongings. This allows the saving of valuable hill real estate for the games at Lamade while allowing people to be down the hill at Volunteer Stadium for an international match-up or doing everything else that the complex has to offer.

Rightly situated at the top of the list of concourse draws are the LLWS merchandise locations. There are a couple of small stands, as well as two large stores full of really great merchandise. It is not unheard of for a very popular team to have lines specifically for their merchandise or for things to be totally sold out in a matter of hours. If you’re wondering if they have it, they probably do.

Another big draw is the Fan Zone Experience. This massive area features all sorts of booths from companies that sponsor the LLWS. Many of the booths offer small prizes in the form of games or raffles, while others may demonstrate things like virtual reality batting practice technology. You never know what you will find and the Fan Zone gets bigger every year.

While you may have already gotten a picture with the statue of a historical figure, that shouldn’t stop you from tracking down a particular larger-than-life (in more ways than one) fictional historical figure. Up on the hill behind the left field fence at Lamade is a statue of Casey, the namesake of the famous American classic poem “Casey at the Bat.” A bronze statue that measures 14 feet tall, it has the entirety of the poem inscribed at the base and is a wonderful addition to the ballpark.

It should be noted that just walking around the concourse will sometimes yield random appearances by those from your television. Obviously, the players could be walking around between games, but it’s also possible to run into an ESPN personality who is there covering the games. You might see a retired Major Leaguer who just loves visiting (like Mike Mussina, who is famously from literally the next town over). Or if you happen to be there on the day of the Little League Classic (a Major League game played nearby that all the LLWS players get to attend), there are whole teams of pro coaches and players just walking around.

Many times, those aforementioned celebrities are there to slide down the upper hill at Lamade on a piece of cardboard. While that sounds crazy, anybody who has ever watched the games on ESPN has seen an announcer or famous ballplayer get up on the hill and try to slide down just like the little kids (and occasionally their parents) do and have done for decades.

And that’s what the LLWS is all about. It’s obviously great for kids, but it’s also the definition of good, clean fun that all of us could use in our lives once in a while. As the summer ends and things get back to a more concrete schedule, sometimes we have to remember to let our inner kid join our actual kids and make memories that we will never forget.

Ways of feeling something special with your family, friends or both are hard to come by. Away from our regular lives, those things are possible. Tour an amazing place and have an amazing experience in Williamsport.

Little League World Series

539 US-15, South Williamsport, PA 17702

August 17-28

https://www.littleleague.org/world-series/2022/llbws/

(570) 326-1921

Admission: FREE (Tickets and Parking)


Nati Burnside lives in Fair Lawn and is a man of many interests. You can contact him at [email protected]

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