The Little League World Series will not be played this year for the first time since the organization began because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Little League International, which announced the move Thursday, also canceled regional tournaments and the championship tournaments in other Little League divisions, including softball, but said the events would return in 2021.
The organization has not, however, called off the 2020 regular season. Little League president Stephen Keener said there was reason for optimism that teams could play this spring and summer, depending on restrictions in states and localities.
The Little League World Series has been played each year since the first tournament in 1947. The next iteration was to be the 75th playing of the tournament; that milestone has been pushed back to 2022.
Keener announced the cancellations in a Facebook Live broadcast Thursday afternoon from league headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, saying it would be “impossible” to hold the events amid ongoing restrictions on large gatherings and travel.
“Let me tell the folks in all those communities and all the sites where we have regional qualifying tournaments how disappointed we are to have to do this, but it was inevitable,” Keener said. “It would be irresponsible and impossible to bring teams and thousands of people from all over the world into the community of Williamsport as well as those six other communities that have been such great friends and supporters of ours over the years.”
Keener added that travel restrictions would make it equally impossible to hold qualifying tournaments for international teams and to bring those teams safely to the United States.
Little League announced in March that the season was on hold until at least May 11 because of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against gatherings of 50 or more people. After that date, Keener said, districts and leagues should look to states and localities for guidance on when or if the season could resume.
He also urged districts to hold all-star tournaments to give kids at least a taste of the competition they’ll be missing missing with World Series qualifying scrapped.
“We will be very amenable to [changing] eligibility requirements and be very flexible to allow as many kids the opportunity to play as possible for whatever can remain of the 2020 Little League season,” he said.
Little League International also said it would credit its chartered programs with $1.2 million in affiliation fees toward current balances or future seasons.
Along with the Little League World Series, which is held in South Williamsport, the other events canceled were the World Series of: Little League Softball in Greenville, North Carolina; Intermediate (50/70) Baseball in Livermore, California; Junior League Baseball in Taylor, Michigan; Junior League Softball in Kirkland, Washington; Senior League Baseball in Easley, South Carolina; and Senior League Softball in Sussex County, Delaware.
Also canceled was the 2020 MLB Little League Classic between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, which had been scheduled for Aug. 23 in Williamsport.
“While the cancellation of the 2020 Little League World Series is extremely disappointing, the health and safety of all of the people involved must be the paramount consideration. We look forward to our return to Williamsport for the 2021 MLB Little League Classic,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.