TAYLOR — A few years ago, Gov. Jennifer Granholm called the city “the Little League capital of Michigan.”
A main factor behind that label was the Junior League World Series of baseball, which starts this weekend at Heritage Park, 12111 Pardee Road.
This will be the 30th consecutive year that the best teams of 13- and 14-year-old ballplayers from around the world play for the world championship. And every year, the event has been held in Taylor.
“We welcome everyone that will be in Taylor for the World Series,” said Greg Bzura, the resident and former city official who founded the series in 1981 and has been the director ever since.
“All of the players and coaches arrive here as champions. The week will be filled with excitement and great baseball, plus eventful experiences that will create memories that last a lifetime.”
Teams checked in to the Heritage Park Activity Building throughout the day yesterday.
Opening ceremonies were scheduled to be held last night at World Series Field in Heritage Park and included a parade of champions, speeches by dignitaries, a ceremonial first-pitch ceremony and fireworks sponsored by Taylor Ford.
Taylor Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand was scheduled to be joined by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Dennis Lewin, chairman of the board of Little League International, as well as representatives of Downriver baseball and major sponsors of the World Series.
The first pitch of the World Series should take place sometime around noon today at World Series Field. The first game pits the USA Southwest regional champions from Tyler, Texas, against the Central regional champions.
Three games will be played today. Team Canada faces Team Ukraine at 2:45 p.m. in the first International Pool contest. The USA West champs from El Monte, Calif., play the East regional winners at 5:30 p.m.
The day ends with two teams making their Junior League World Series debut at 8 p.m.: the Asia-Pacific champions from Chinese Taipei versus the Latin America champions from Guatemala.
Chinese Taipei, formerly known in Little League circles as Taiwan, has won 17 Little League world championships (12-year-old division) alone. They debut in Taylor as one of the teams to beat. Meanwhile, this will be the first time a team from Guatemala has played in any World Series sanctioned by Little League International.
Rounding out the field are the Mexican national champions from Guaymas, Sonora, and the USA Southeast champs from Mechanicsville, Va. Both are part of tomorrow’s action, which gets under way at 11 a.m.
Four games will be played each day, from Sunday through Thursday.
The top two teams in the International Pool play for the International championship at 5 p.m. Friday. The top two teams in the USA Pool play for the United States championship at 8 p.m.
The International champion battles the USA champ for the world title at 4 p.m. Saturday. The new starting time accommodates the television schedule of ESPN2, which will broadcast the game live.
Admission is a modest $5 per carload per day, or $10 per car for the entire series. Both prices include parking.
For updates go to www.cityoftaylor.com/worldseries.