COVID-19 Pandemic Forces Cancellation of Little League World Series

While there still remains some small hope that some of its regular season games will be played this summer, last week Little League International decided to cancel its World Series and Region Tournaments for the first time in the organization’s history.

“After exhausting all possible options, we came to the conclusion that because of the significant public health uncertainty that will still exist several months from now, and with direction from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, as well as senior public health officials and government leaders from locations where our other six World Series are held, as well as their qualifying regional tournaments, it will not be possible to proceed with our tournaments as we’ve hosted them for nearly 75 years,” says Stephen Keener, Little League president and CEO.

“This is a heartbreaking decision for everyone at Little League International, but more so for those millions of Little Leaguers who have dreamt of one day playing in one of our seven World Series events,” he adds.

As a result of this decision, the 2020 MLB Little League Classic, presented by GEICO, originally scheduled for August 23 between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, was also canceled. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have already committed to returning to Williamsport for the 2021 MLB Little League Classic next August.

As for playing at least some Little League games this summer, the organization realizes that each state and community have different guidelines for resuming organized youth sports. “Little League International strongly encourages volunteers to confirm with their local and state health officials that it is safe to do so before resuming Little League activity after May 11,” it said in a statement.

The organization said that a number of factors went into the decision to cancel the World Series and Regional Tournaments, including:

  • The inability to play qualifying tournaments in many of the U.S. and International regions, coupled with direction from federal officials regarding the complexity of international travel restrictions and immigration requirements;
  • An indication from teams from around the world that they would be unable to participate or travel to the tournaments; and
  • The testing and mitigation protocols that would need to be in place at these significant public events should an individual participating or attending an event be diagnosed with COVID-19.

The cancellation includes the 82 regional qualifying tournaments and their respective seven World Series events.

As 2021 was originally supposed to be the playing of the 75th Little League Baseball World Series, that celebration will now take place in 2022.

To assist the local Little League programs as they continue to assess their local operations, Little League International will be crediting all chartered programs with the affiliation fees paid for their chartered teams in 2020, which totals approximately $1.2 million in support to local leagues. These funds will be credited through Little League’s Data Center and be available for local leagues to use on current balances, future affiliation and insurance fees, tournament enrollment, and other Little League-related expenses.