By DAVE GORGON
TAYLOR — One of five teams of Downriver teenagers will play in the Junior League Baseball World Series. A tournament to determine the local teams’ fate begins July 28 at Heritage Park.
The World Series for 13- and 14-year-olds, played at the same field at Heritage Park, is set for Aug. 12 to 19 with opening ceremonies on Aug. 11. Little League International, which oversees the JLWS, voted to expand the series from 11 to 12 teams. The new team will be a host team representing Michigan District 5.
The five Junior League teams include Melvindale; a Southgate/Taylor South combined team; Brownstown Township; Huron Township; and one team including players from Taylor Northeast, Taylor North Central and Taylor Northwest.
The district tournament is held in a double-elimination format, meaning the teams play until they have two losses. Opening Day —Saturday — features three games: Brownstown vs. Southgate/Taylor South at 9 a.m., Taylor Northeast/North Central/Northwest vs. Huron at noon, and Melvindale vs. the winner of Brownstown-Southgate/Taylor South at 3 p.m.
Two games are scheduled on Sunday, one at 9 a.m., one at noon. One game is planned for each of the next three days: at 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and the district championship game at 7 p.m. Wednesday. If the two teams in the finals have one loss apiece, they play one more game at 7 p.m. Aug. 2. The winner advances to the World Series.
The need for a 12th team in the World Series was created when Australia received an automatic berth. That created lopsided pool play with six International teams and only five American teams. Now the pools will be even at six teams apiece.
This will be the 38th Junior League World Series, which is the older brother of the more famous Little League World Series played in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. While Junior League is for 13- and 14-year-old players, Little League is for 12-year-olds.
This will be the first year the JLWS has a host team – something five other World Series have had for years. The District 5 champion will advance directly to the World Series and will not have to compete in the Michigan state tournament and USA Central regional tournament in Fort Wayne, Ind., to qualify.
District 5 Administrator Sharon Mayer is excited about the prospects of a Downriver baseball team playing in the JLWS.
“I’m hoping it will bring even more flair and interest to the World Series by having a hometown team playing,” Mayer said. She also hopes having a local team in the JLWS increases participation overall in Little League programs in the region.
To date, five International teams have qualified for the 2018 JLWS, including five-time defending champion Chinese Taipei after repeating as the Asia-Pacific regional champ. Other qualifiers include Latin America champion Aruba, Europe-Africa champ Italy and the national champions of Mexico and Australia. The Canadian national tournament gets under way July 28 in Lethbridge, Alberta.
Five regional tournaments across the United States will determine five of the six American competitors in the JLWS. The USA West tournament starts July 28 in San Jose, Calif. On Aug. 2, the USA East tourney gets under way in Freehold Township, N.J., and the USA Southeast regional starts in Fort Myers, Fla.
USA Southwest region play starts Aug. 3 in Albuquerque, N.M., followed by the USA Central tournament on August 4 in Fort Wayne. The state champion of Michigan plays in the Central region so there could be two teams from Michigan in the World Series.
JLWS opening ceremonies get under way at Heritage Park about 8 p.m. Aug. 11, followed by fireworks at dusk. Admission is free.
The Opening Day of games is Aug. 12. Games continue throughout the week with the world championship game set for noon Aug. 19. The final game is broadcast live on ESPN2.
Admission on game days is $5 per day per carload or $15 for a week’s pass. Both fees include parking.
Heritage Park is at 12111 Pardee Road. Keep up with JLWS news on the Junior League World Series Facebook page.
(Dave Gorgon is the Public Relations director for the Junior League World Series. Contact him at [email protected].)