By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – The competition schedule has changed slightly. The global reach has expanded a little further. But when the world’s best 13- and 14-year-old players take the fields of Heritage Park today, the Junior League World Series will, as it has been for three-and-a-half decades, be about baseball.
Organizers of the 36th annual JLWS have launched a new, modified double-elimination tournament bracket for the now 11 teams in competition, a change from the previous round-robin format.
Also new this year will be the championship team from Australia, one of six international-bracket entries alongside the champions from five U.S. regional tournaments.
JLWS founder and director Greg Bzura said the long-running tournament is, “a legitimate world series,” now all the more international with the addition of Australia. As a tradition, Bzura noted the flow of returning teams – and sometimes players – and number of JLWS alum who go on to college if not professional careers.
Following opening ceremony events held Aug. 13, tournament play begins at 11 a.m. Aug. 14 and continues throughout the week. The top two finalists in each of two brackets will compete Aug. 20 for the International and U.S. championships.
A final showdown between the two winners will begin at 1 p.m. Aug. 21, and will be broadcast on ESPN.
The five U.S. teams earned bracket space earlier this month at the following regional tournaments: West Salisbury, Md. (East); Taylors, S.C. (Southeast); Midland, Mich. (Central); Corpus Christi, Texas (Southwest); and Kawaihau, Hawaii (West).
The global bracket features players from the following countries: Taoyuan County, Taiwan (Asia-Pacific); Juan Diaz, Panama (Latin America); Brno, Czech Republic (Europe/Africa); and the three national champions from Canada, Mexico and Australia, where baseball has grown in popularity in recent years.
The Taiwan representation of the Asia-Pacific region represents the end of a three-year reign that a team from Chinese Taipei has held as JLWS champs.
All games will be played at Heritage Park, 12111 Pardee Road.
Admission is $5 per car per day or $15 for a week’s pass. For information go to www.cityoftaylor.com/worldseries or follow along at www.facebook.com/juniorleagueworldseries.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])