Where EAST meets the Northwest
LITTLE LEAGUERS. Honolulu’s Esaiah Wong slides into home plate ahead of a tag
by Curacao catcher Emery Hansen during the Little League World Series
Championship baseball game in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on August 28,
2022. Participation in Little League baseball and softball was up this season.
(AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)
From The Asian Reporter, V32, #9 (September 5, 2022), page 13.
Little League participation on the rise post-COVID-19
By Max Ralph
The Associated Press
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Little League International said participation in
its baseball and softball leagues was up this season, and team managers are
optimistic about another bump next year coming off the first full-scale Little
League World Series since the pandemic.
After the number of participating teams dropped 7% from 2020 to 2021, mostly
because of COVID-19, the organization saw a 17% rebound this season, Little
League spokesman Kevin Fountain told The Associated Press.
Little League’s baseball and softball programs now reach approximately 2
million children in 80 countries, he said. The growth comes amid a push by Major
League Baseball to reach young fans by encouraging bat flips and engaging them
on TikTok, among other initiatives.
This year’s Little League World Series (LLWS) was the first since 2019 to
include international teams. The 2020 tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19,
and only American teams competed last year.
Australia’s representative in the Williamsport area in August was the first
LLWS team to come from Brisbane North Little League in Queensland. They were
eliminated after two games but still hope to have made an impact Down Under.
"Hopefully what we’ve done here will encourage more and more boys and girls
to play," Australia manager Keith Land said. "Back home, we’ve already had our
sign-ons for the next season, and numbers in our region have just blown up.
Everyone wants to play again because they’ve read this story."
Youth baseball participation in the U.S. was steadily increasing
pre-pandemic, according to annual surveys from 2013 to 2018 by the Sports
Fitness & Industry Association. The Aspen Institute also reported a 3% increase
in participation among 6- to 12-year-olds between 2015 and 2018.
The surge appears to have resumed, and not just in the U.S.
"I’m sure we’ll see a spike in registrations," Canada manager Ulysses Yan
said. "From what I hear back home, it’s all over the news, and people are
following and loving it across the country. Just want to hopefully promote
baseball in Canada."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, even a local American team making a trip to South
Williamsport boosted interest.
Hollidaysburg, a town of about 6,000 just 124 miles away from the Little
League World Series complex, represented the Mid-Atlantic Region this year. It
was the first team from Hollidaysburg in LLWS history, and it won three games
before getting knocked out by Texas.
"We’re talking to a lot of different people that have younger kids and kids
that are 1 and 2 years old. Boys, girls — all sorts of different people that are
excited to come and be a part of this and see that the dream is possible,"
Hollidaysburg manager Jim McGough said. "We’re excited to get home when
everything’s finished and help the next group to be able to have this dream as
Editor’s note: The Honolulu team from Hawai‘i won the Little League World
Series Championship game, defeating Curacao 13-3 on August 28, 2022. Writer Max
Ralph is a Penn State journalism student.
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