About 15 years ago, I remember my parents going through hoops carting my brother and I around to different Little League fields across the Wyoming Valley. Back then, however, there wasn’t much travel until you got to all-star play.
See, at my home Little League, we had six, sometimes eight, teams in each division. There wasn’t any reason to travel to other Little Leagues during the regular season much like it is today. Once the all-star season started, however, things began to expand. The furthest we traveled? Maybe to the Back Mountain or Forty Fort.
But as we get into the heat of August, Little League baseball will soon take the ultimate stage in South Williamsport. Until then, however, there are several other divisions still trying to get to the sport’s final showdown.
That was the case in Greater Pittston this week.
One team drove 385 miles. Another drove 365 miles. But all nine teams had the same goal in mind: An East Region Championship.
West Pittston Little League played host to the East Region 9-10 Softball Championships from Saturday, Aug. 8 through Friday, Aug. 14. A total of 20 games were played after Rhode Island and Delaware played for the championship on Friday, Aug. 14. Delaware ended up coming out on top, 8-7, to claim the East Region title.
Throughout the week, the West Pittston Little League was on top of each team’s every need. Between games, volunteers from West Pittston were on the field making it as pristine as possible for its state champions. There were championship T-shirts and a full concession stand available for the traveling parents.
We all know about the regular Little League World Series held in South Williamsport. That event is reserved for the 11-12 baseball division. On the other side of the country, the girls 11-12 division plays in its own Little League World Series.
Because there is no Little League World Series for the 9-10 division, it will be the last games of the season for the teams playing in West Pittston. But why?
There are World Series tournaments in 11-12 baseball, 11-12 softball, junior baseball, junior softball, senior baseball, senior softball, big league baseball and big league softball. It’s a lot, but you get the point. When players are on teams under the age of 11, there isn’t any room for advancement.
However, that has come a long way.
When I was playing 9-10 baseball almost two decades ago, my team went on to win the District 16 title. But that was it. There was no advancement to sectionals or states. At least now teams are able to get out of the state tournament and on to regionals. The reason why it stops there eludes me.
Little Leagues across the country will do just about anything to cater to tomorrow’s stars, including right here in Greater Pittston. I understand the kids are young and many have to get back to school before it would finish. But why can’t Little League just add two more World Series? Either way, it’s still a chance to the players to experience other leagues.
This past week, the nine teams — Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — were treated like royalty once they came to town.
Following a very nice opening ceremonies on Saturday, Aug. 8, four games were played on the field in West Pittston. On Sunday, a banquet was held for the teams at The Woodlands Inn and Resort in Plains Township. On Monday, each team had the opportunity to get tickets to see the RailRiders game. The coaches threw out the first pitches while the players got up close and personal with some of tomorrow’s Major League stars.
The Little League Baseball World Series begins on Thursday, Aug. 20 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 30 in South Williamsport. Much of the action can be seen on ESPN or ESPN2. That network does a fantastic job making it all about the kids.
In the stands? You guess it. Thousands of screaming fans will make Williamsport one of the biggest cities in Pennsylvania for the next two weeks. The city in Lycoming County, about an hour and a half drive from here, will see teams from as far as Asia compete for a World Series championship.
Looking for a team to fall in love with and cheer for throughout the LLWS? Red Land Little League, from just outside of Harrisburg, will play at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 16 in Bristol, Connecticut for a chance to play in South Williamsport.
Nick Wagner is a former PIAA baseball, softball and Little League umpire, who now enjoys watching the sport from a different perspective. Reach him at 570-602-0178 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick