It all started in 1938, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania when a young man by the name of Carl Stotz organized the first Little League Baseball League. In 1947 the first National Little League Tournament was held. The Maynard Midgets of Stotz’ hometown of Williamsport defeated a team from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, to become the first Little League Tournament Champions. From there the series would change from a regional baseball league to include teams from all 50 American States, and eventually be televised on national TV. “By 1950, the first international Little Leagues had been established at either end of the Panama Canal and in Canada, prompting the National Tournament to be renamed the Little League Baseball® World Series.” 1 And in 1957 “Monterrey, Mexico, becomes the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series”2.
For two weeks out of the year we see cultural differences, hear foreign languages, and see the children of our future play together in a sport called Baseball. Year after year I watch the teams come together forming friendships and sharing an experience of a lifetime. I see firsthand the people of Williamsport and the surrounding communities welcoming the teams and their families.
We complain about the traffic, joke about not eating out at the local restaurants for 2 weeks and claim we will stay away from South Side (South Williamsport) where the games are now held. However by the end of July the town comes alive as the city plans for the teams arrival.
Before we know it, chairs start to line up on the parade route the night before as The Little League Grand Slam Parade begins and Williamsport welcomes the 16 teams.
Since 1975 when I moved to this area with my family, I have watched teams come from all over the world to participate in the Little League games. And during that time political and cultural differences are set aside as young boys and girls come together from as far away as Australia connecting the world by playing baseball.
Through the years teams from Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, South America, Africa and Russia to name a few, arrive in our little city. Those of us in the stands cheer and applaud the teams from abroad as if they were from our own hometowns. We do not see Asian, Mexican or Russians, we see young children coming together having fun and determined to do their best to win the championship title.
As the world around us burns with unrest, these teams and their families show the world sportsmanship and team work. They show the world that people from different nationalities can indeed get along. So often I see the crowds stand up and applaud, supporting all the competing teams.
For two weeks in August the ball players, their families and the local community all come together as one.
There is a lesson to be learned from these two weeks– if those young ball players can bring the world together for two weeks out of the year why can’t world leaders find a common bond and come together the rest of the year? Can it be as simple as a baseball game?
Note: To find out which team will hold the 2014 Championship Title, you can watch the final game on Sunday August 24, 2014 on ESPN.