It's the 75th anniversary of the Little League, and the World Series kicks off today. Here's what to watch:
1. Mo’ne Davis and Emma March
It has been 30 years since the first girl played in the Little League World Series, and now two more young ladies will make their debut this year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Mo’ne Davis, 13, the pitching powerhouse from Philadelphia, and Vancouver’s Emma March, 12, a first baseman and pitcher, will be the 17th and 18th girls to play in the series. And they’re no ordinary players, ESPN commentator Karl Ravech points out.
“Both are not only playing, but they’re impactful players,” he said. “In Mo’ne’s case, she pitched her team through the game to get here. Without her, they may not be here. You have to remember that this is not just a boy’s game.”
2. The Return of Inner-City Players
The Jackie Robinson West Little League team from the South Side of Chicago is back in the series for the first time since 1981, and teams from Las Vegas and Philadelphia also made the cut.
The teams prove the Little League’s efforts to reach city kids have been a success, Ravech said.
“The idea that you have teams from Philadelphia and Chicago – a team made up of all black players – shows there are positive results from efforts to get cities back involved with baseball,” he said, noting that most city kids tend to gravitate toward basketball or football.
Eight international teams play in the series, including one from Tokyo, which Ravech says fans should be sure to watch.
“They are traditionally, fundamentally superior to every team you will see here,” he said. “To watch them take the field, there’s a very mechanical and systematic approach they take that no one else does.
“It’s like watching a ballet, and it leads to great success. They don’t make mistakes very often. Even though 12-year-old kids tend to make a lot, they don’t make many.”
Japan is the reigning Little League World Series champion.
4. People Who Really Love Baseball
The players aren’t raking in million-dollar salaries, and there’s no alcohol served, so people who show up to Little League baseball games are really there for the love of the sport, Ravech said.
That includes the kids themselves.
“You’ll see them high-fiving opponents, smiling when they make mistakes, getting bummed out when things don’t go their way,” he said. “They’re very human. I think that’s important to remember.”
Fans should keep in mind that this isn’t the MLB.
“These are boys and girls who are 11, 12 and 13 years old,” Ravech said. “These are little boys and girls who are very good for their age, but they are that age.
“And they are going to make mistakes, and they’re prone to not being as intense as you see in major league and college players. I believe it’s a group that plays the game really because they love baseball.”