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Wait Until Next Year

Despite our current ‘social distancing’ and ‘yellow’ directives, one thing remains constant; ‘people do talk.’ It has now been three weeks since Little League International President and CEO Steve Keener put out the word everyone thought was coming but still didn’t want to hear — the cancellation of the 2020 World Series. Although social conversations

Despite our current ‘social distancing’ and ‘yellow’ directives, one thing remains constant; ‘people do talk.’ It has now been three weeks since Little League International President and CEO Steve Keener put out the word everyone thought was coming but still didn’t want to hear — the cancellation of the 2020 World Series. Although social conversations and small talk are not occurring as frequently as they used to these days, I, and perhaps you also, have been asked the same question — ‘what do you think about the World Series being cancelled?’

In last week’s column, my iHeart Media World Series radio broadcast teammates shared those very thoughts with all of us. Since then, Jason Fink, the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, took the time to answer that same question.

“I hate to say it, but I began to think the Series might be cancelled very early on in terms of the needed time involved. During that March/April time frame, I had a pit in my stomach about all of it. The fact that it is truly a World Series and with the travel restrictions and all the other things that come into play were obstacles that would have to be taken into consideration. There are a number of countries impacted by this. Right here in our own country, we saw lockdowns and kids not being able to get out and do activities. It quickly became one of those things that I had a large amount of concern that it wasn’t going to happen. Losing the Little League World Series is a huge financial blow to our area. We estimate somewhere between $35 and $40 million in economic impact is generated for the region during the Series.”

Along with the Series being cancelled the immensely popular Grand Slam Parade was also a 2020 casualty.

“We do a wrap-up at the end of each year’s World Series and begin discussions about what we can do to improve the parade going forward,” Fink explained. “Then, in January, we got started with the planning for this year’s parade. March is about when we really start concentrating on the necessary details, but when things began to happen in March, we weren’t able to get that done. Now, in hindsight, that’s not a bad thing. The parade committee is a group of people I enjoy meeting with and planning with, and it is very unfortunate that we are not going to be able to do our work this year.

“Financially, we had not made many cost commitments for the parade. We had held up going out and seeking the sponsorships for the parade just because of the uncertainty of the situation we were in. We did have contracts in place with the baseball players we bring in for the parade, and the Williamsport meets the World events. The nice thing is that we will be able to carry over those invitations for 2021.”

Asked about who those players are, Fink indicated that was something they would keep under wraps until next year.

“There is so much about the World Series that I will miss. From my perspective, the personal side is that there are so many people that you get to meet for the first time, but you also get to reconnect with those familiar faces and come in every year that you won’t get to see. All the things that go into each year’s Little League World Series make it such a wonderful event for our area. I hate to say it, but I’m not looking forward to August.

“I’ve always been somebody that gets excited about what takes place in our community with all the trappings that come along with the Series because there is something for people of all ages. You see the smiles on kid’s faces when you give them a pin, the conversations with people around the world that can barely speak English, and get to speak with them about their excitement of being here and learn aspects of their lives. It’s not going to be fun. And on top of that, there is not going to be the Drum Corps event either. I’ve really gotten into that event, and it’s been entertaining. There will definitely be an empty hole this year.”

The sadness created by Keener’s announcement is spread far beyond our Lycoming County border as youngsters, fans, and parents all around the world are sharing the same disappointment. I recently spoke with Wayne Metcalf of Baxter Springs, Kansas, about the status of Little League in his area. Metcalf has spent 50 years volunteering for Little League as a coach, league president, District Administrator, and served a term on LLB’s Board of Directors.

“Our Governor just opened up things on May 11,” Metcalf reported. “Normally, we begin playing our local league games the last week in April. Our plan now is to start playing games the first week in June and run regular-season games until July 25, and we’ll call it quits right there. We won’t have any kind of an all-star tournament, but at least the kids will have some games to play. It is just a big disappointment. One of the parents in our league told me he had watched the World Series on TV since he was 12 years old and was sad he wouldn’t be able to do that this year. I feel the worst for the kids, but Little League is something a whole lot of people enjoy, so it will be kind of a lost summer.

“I’ve had the opportunity to come to Williamsport seven or eight times for the World Series and have been to Indianapolis for the regional tournament twice as many times. It is just bad for everybody. The whole country will miss Little League, and sports fans are definitely missing their sports. Starting with the cancellation of March Madness right through to where we are now wondering if Major League Baseball will play any games. And if they do play, it will be OK to watch it on TV, but without fans in the stands, I don’t know how enjoyable that would be.”

Keener certainly understands the magnitude of the organization’s decision, as was expressed in an open letter to the community. In that letter, he stated in part, “We are saddened, as well; that the annual reunion of many friends, volunteers, and fans that occurs here each summer will have to wait another year.”

Baseball fans have long said, after their favorite team had a disappointing season, “wait until next year.” Unfortunately, it will be a long wait.

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