If you turn on ESPN over the next 10 days you will catch what I consider one of the best sporting events of the year — the Little League World Series.
The best teams from around the globe converge on South Williamsport each August to decide who is the best team in the world.
The big question — in my mind anyway — is will there ever be a local team representing Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic Region at the Little League World Series?
The simple answer is probably not. But the reason it’s so easy to say no is because we are hurting our own chances to make it to South Williamsport.
Most teams that are at the LLWS this week have picked their team of 11 or 12 out of a pool of hundreds of players.
The Keystone Little League team that made it to South Williamsport in 2011 was made up of players from all of Clinton County, which has a population of more than 38,000 people.
While they haven’t made it back to South Williamsport since, anyone who has paid attention to Little League in Pennsylvania over the last decade will tell you that Keystone is always in the hunt for district, sectional and state championships.
When you look at Little League in Athens and Sayre, it’s obvious to most people I’ve spoken to that the two leagues should be combined.
They already play together during the regular season. I’m sure some people would have kept the two leagues apart for that too, but the numbers simply forced their hands.
Athens had four “Major” teams in the regular season this summer with around 45 kids filling out the rosters. Sayre had two teams and only 19 kids total in the “Major” division.
Without the two leagues scheduling each other during the regular season, it would get pretty boring playing the same teams over and over and over again.
The question is why do they split up for All-Star season? Why not take the 65 kids from both leagues and pick the best 11 or 12 kids for the Majors All-Star team to play in districts — and hopefully beyond?
I wrote a column about this years ago and the main complaint I heard was that some kids would lose the opportunity to play All-Stars.
It is true that it’s currently easier for the kids to make an All-Star team because of the lack of numbers in each league. That doesn’t mean it’s the right decision — not for the kids or for the league.
Players should have to work hard to make an All-Star team. Players shouldn’t be guaranteed a spot just because they signed up to play at the beginning of the season.
Combining the two leagues for All-Star season will simply help each player by making it more competitive. There is an old saying — competition breeds excellence — and I believe that with all my heart.
There will still be ways to let every player compete for an All-Star team. I remember Athens Little League having a “B team” back when I was young that would go play in tournaments while the Major All-Stars competed in District 15 play.
The first goal for Little League should always be to let the players have some fun in the summer. But league presidents, coaches and parents should also want the players to be pushed to do great things on the field.
And those same league presidents, coaches and parents should do whatever they can to put the players in the best position to win games — and I’m not talking about just competing for a district title.
When it comes to Athens and Sayre, the one way to give our young All-Stars a chance to live every Little Leaguer’s dream of playing in South Williamsport is to put old rivalries aside and do what’s best for the kids and the leagues.
I’m urging leaders from both leagues to sit down — maybe while watching a Little League World Series game over the next 10 days — and come up with a plan to officially merge leagues.
It’s the right thing to do — and, who knows, it may give future Little Leaguers from Athens and Sayre a chance to someday compete on a world stage.