The world’s best teams of 13- and 14-year-old baseball players have arrived in Taylor for the 36th annual Junior League World Series.
Opening ceremonies are at 8 p.m. Saturday, August 13, at World Series Field in Taylor’s Heritage Park, 12111 Pardee Road. Admission to opening ceremonies is free.
The festivities will include a colorful walking parade, speeches and presentations by dignitaries, a special ceremonial first pitch featuring former Taylor Major League pitcher Steve Avery and fireworks.
Eleven teams from around the world will compete for the world championship of the 13- and 14-year-old division of Little League Baseball. It’s the biggest field of teams in the history of the event.
Four games are scheduled on Sunday, August 14, opening day on World Series Field in Taylor’s Heritage Park. The international tournament will continue through next Sunday, August 21, when the world champion will be crowned in an ESPN-televised game starting at 1 p.m.
The Asia-Pacific champions from Chinese Taipei won the World Series for the third straight time last year. A team from the Shing-Ming Junior Little League in Taoyuan City will attempt to defend the title in what amounts to a seventh straight appearance in Taylor for a team from Chinese Taipei. In 2015, Tai Chung, Taiwan, won the title for the second straight year.
Chinese Taipei plays at 2 p.m. Sunday against first-time JLWS entry Cronulla in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. For the first time ever, the Australian national champion was granted an automatic berth in the series due to the impressive growth and popularity of Little League-type baseball on the continent.
In all, six teams make up the International bracket of the 2016 World Series. The others are Latin America regional champion Tomas Munoz Little League from Juan Diaz, Panama; the South Czech Republic Little League from Brno, Czech Republic, making its third straight JLWS appearance by Czech teams; the national champions of Mexico from the Linda Vista Junior League in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon; and the Lethbridge Southwest Little League from Alberta, the Canadian national champs.
Five teams will represent Junior League regions of the United States. Teams earning regional championships include the Northeast/Fraternal Northwest Little Leagues from Midland, Michigan (USA Central Region); Padre Little League in Corpus Christi, Texas (Southwest); the Northwood Little League from Taylors, South Carolina (Southeast); the West Salisbury Little League from Salisbury, Maryland (East); the Kawaihau Community Little League from Kapaa Kauai, Hawaii (West).
The series’ opening game on Sunday is Hawaii vs. Maryland at 11 a.m. Sunday. After the Chinese Taipei-Australia game at 2 p.m., the games continue with South Carolina vs. the Central Region champion at 5 p.m. and Canada vs. Mexico at 8 p.m.
Games continue throughout the week. For the first time at the JLWS, teams play a new “modified double-elimination” format mandated by Little League International. Teams play a regular double-elimination schedule to determine the finalists for the International (3 p.m. Friday, August 20) and USA (6 p.m. Friday) championship games.
Then, the August 20 winners play in the world championship game at 1 p.m. Sunday, August 21.
World Series organizers noted that all teams arrive in Taylor as champions, having won national and/or regional tournaments played around the globe.
Besides a new continent in the World Series and a new tournament format, fans can expect to see a new bullpen along the right field line and upgrades to signage, the video scoreboard and the Memorial Garden on the grounds of World Series Field.
Admission to the games is $5 per carload per day or $15 for a week’s pass. Both prices include parking.
Heritage Park is located at 12111 Pardee Road. A second entrance is on Northline Road at Racho Road.
Those unable to attend the games can watch them via streaming video at the website www.ustream.tv/channel/jlws.
For more information on the Junior League World Series, visit the website www.cityoftaylor.com/worldseries or follow along on the World Series Facebook page, www.facebook.com/juniorleagueworldseries.
The Junior League World Series is considered the “older brother” of the famous Little League World Series for 12-year-old players in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Both series tout former players who went on to professional sports careers. At least 12 former Junior League World Series competitors have gone on to professional baseball in the Major Leagues: current Philadelphia Phillies infielder Freddy Galvas, former Detroit Tiger Gary Sheffield, Eric Bedard, Brett Myers, brothers Jose and Javier Valentin, Erubiel Durazo, Chad Hermansen, Derek Bell, Delino DeShields, Shannon Withem, Adam Loewen and Chris Brock.
Other future stars to play in Taylor have included Chris Dingman and Steve Reinprecht, who went on to play in the National Hockey League; Matt Cassell, who continues to play in the National Football League; Mark “Bo” Pelini, a well-known former college football player and current coach.
The World Series operates on the generosity of sponsors, fundraising efforts and other donations, along with an all-volunteer staff. To make a tax-deductible donation or to become a series volunteer, contact Greg Bzura at (734) 306-3113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.