I trust in God, I love my country, and will respect its laws, I will play fair, and strive to win, but win or lose, I will always do my best.
It just seemed fitting to start this week’s column with the Little League Pledge. Like most things created by Little League Baseball, it’s ahead of its time. It was written over six decades ago by Peter McGovern and provides the perfect words to start every sporting event in our Nation. However, even better than that, is that it could be used to start every sporting event, including the Olympics. The words could be recited by any nation in any language and be completely understood as positive.
Little League Baseball has been a worldwide leader in developing equipment and safety protocols since its founding. Many of the ideas put into play right here in our hometown have found their way to every level of baseball, including the Major League.
What an amazing job Little League CEO Steve Keener and his team have done navigating in the COVID-19 gauntlet. Before I get started, let’s remember the Little League World Series held in South Williamsport is made up of players between the ages of 10 and 12 years old. That creates a whole different set of challenges for return to play. As the calendar turned to 2021, we didn’t even know if there would be a LLWS. Then in May, it was announced there would be a World Series, and now we’ve reached the point where there will even be fans in attendance.
The focus by everyone at Little League Baseball has been how to pull off a Little League World Series but not compromise the health of the participants and those surrounding them during a pandemic. And again, we’re not talking about adults playing a professional sport.
As most of you know, I am a huge believer and supporter of Little League Baseball. I have stated before there is no better man for the corner office at Little League than Steve Keener. I had an opportunity to talk with him and get an overview of just how the past six months have played out; I’d like to share.
In February, the process began with the appointing of the Little League International Pandemic Response Advisory Commission. Their goal was to study the situation and inform Little League if it was even possible and what would be needed to hold the 2021 LLWS. This was the first step to having the event. The commission, which is made up of health professionals from around the world was beyond thorough, even to the point that Little League had to put all new air filtration systems in every building. The requirements of this commission far exceeded anything the CDC, state, or national government would require.
By early May, everything necessary to make a 2021 LLWS a reality was in place. It was announced that the World Series would be played. The risk of bringing teams from across the world during a pandemic obviously made no sense, so it would be an all-USA sixteen-team championship.
So, how did this all get done in such a short time? It was accomplished by a lot of hardworking, committed people at Little League and beyond. One person Steve asked me to single out is LLB Chief Operating Officer Patrick Wilson. His efforts have gone above and beyond and are a major reason there is a World Series this year.
CEO Keener also wanted me to give a tip of the hat to MLB and UPMC. Commissioner Rob Manford and MLB committed whatever was necessary to help with the mitigation of the World Series. The most important aspect of this has been providing Spectrum Solutions, which does on-site COVID testing for all MLB teams. They will provide the same service at the LLWS. Equally important is that Commissioner Manford/MLB are going to pay the bill for this COVID incurred cost. Upon arriving in Williamsport, every team member will be tested, and continued testing protocol will be in place.
The other longtime Little League partner to assure everybody’s health and wellbeing is UPMC Susquehanna. Through the efforts of President Steve Johnson, they have done a remarkable job over the years of providing athletic trainers and healthcare for those in attendance at the World Series. They have now taken their game to the next level.
During the entire process, UPMC has committed Dr. Rutul Dalal, Director of Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Seth Kinley, Director of Musculoskeletal, to help provide protocol, mitigation, and medical expertise. Little League and UPMC officials recently cut the ribbon on the opening of a wellness center in Dr. Creighton J. Hale International Grove. It will have two exam rooms, four patient rooms, and an isolation medical area right on site.
Simply put, the folks at Little League International have assembled an All-Star team dedicated to the health and wellbeing of all those in attendance.
So, now let’s talk about what the Little League World Series will look like for the fans this year. There will be 250 passes per team. This will allow for family, friends, and community members to be seated in the friendly confines of both Volunteer and Lamade Stadiums.
In addition, the LLWS will be offering 3,000 passes per day. Beginning on August 17th, they will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The process is easy; go to LittleLeague.org/Visit two days prior to the day you would like to attend and register. The passes are good for an entire day of LLWS action.
Remarkably, there will be 5-6 thousand folks in attendance each day of the LLWS. Please look at the glass, or maybe I should say Stadium, as being half full. There will be a Little League World Series, full of excitement and great baseball. There will be a roar of a crowd. There will be memories made for a lifetime by 16 American teams. And there will be a champion from the United States of America crowned. That’s pretty darn good stuff compared to where we were last year.
God Bless America.1 comment