31st Junior League World Series next week
The team from Chinese Taipei, with its Junior League World Series trophy, takes victory lap after winning the 2010 Junior League World Series title. The 31st edition of the Series begins next Sunday at Heritage Park.
By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – The Detroit Tigers may be on track for post-season activity; but some smaller players from around the world have their eyes on their own prize in Downriver next week.
Beginning next Sunday, the top 13- and 14-year-old Junior League teams from around the world will converge on the city for the 2011 Junior League World Series of Baseball, which will make its 31st appearance in Taylor for a week of tournament play at Heritage Park.
International play has already determined teams from Chinese Tapei, Italy, Venezuela and Puerto Rico to the brackets – the boys from Taoyuan will attempt to take the hardware home as a Taipei team did last year – and six more spots wait to be filled, five from the United States and one from Canada. Regional tournaments are underway to confirm this year’s World Series match-ups.
Dave Gorgon, communications director for the event, said the series is becoming a Downriver fixture, and the community demonstrates great support for the hundreds of international guests.
“Last year we had hundreds and hundreds of fans who came to support the Chinese Tapei team,” Gorgon said. “They packed the field and really showed great support.”
Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said the community enjoys the chance to put its best foot forward as unofficial U.S. ambassadors. The growing reputation of the Series, he said, offers a good opportunity for local businesses, nonprofit groups and others.
“It’s a great event,” Lamarand said. “The kids and their fans have just been great.”
The event kicks off Saturday with opening ceremonies starting at 8 p.m. at the park, 12111 Pardee Road, including a parade of champions, special first-pitch ceremony and fireworks at dusk. Tournament play, round-robin style in either the USA or International pools, begins Sunday with four games starting at noon. Beginning Aug. 15, the remaining four days begin at 11 a.m.
The top two teams in each pool play Friday before the 11 a.m. Aug. 20 Championship game, which will be televised on ESPN2.
“After three decades, it’s a pretty well-known event in the Downriver area,” Gorgon said. “We gain new fans seemingly every year.”
By the time they hit the field at Heritage Park, Gorgon said these players are proven winners regardless of Saturday’s outcome, each team having spent the better part of the summer climbing the local ladder through state and regional competitions.
Arguably these are what can be described as the “best of the best” players of their age group; the Taipei team, for instance, won the Asia-Pacific region title by outscoring teams from the Philippines Hong Kong and host Indonesia by a total of 96-2 over four games.
“They all arrive as champions,” Gorgon said, “the best teams of 13- and 14-year-old players in the world.”
Although not as high profile as the Little League World Series held in Pennsylvania, these slightly older players – certain to soon begin high school careers with eyes on college or pro possibilities – offer something that the Downriver area can appreciate as well as anyone, Gorgon said.
“We have a strong baseball community that supports the Series and enjoys great baseball,” he said.
For more information, visit www.cityoftaylor.com/worldseries.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])