JLWS ready to play global ball

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Junior League World Series around corner
Photo courtesy of PDQ Photos
Chinese Taipei, winners of last year’s Junior League World Series, returns to attempt to defend its title when the 34th annual JLWS gets underway Aug. 9. The best 13- and 14-year-old teams in the world will converge on Heritage Park from Aug 8 to 16 to determine a champion.

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — When and where have long been known: The 34th annual Junior League World Series will begin a week’s worth of tournament play in Heritage Park beginning Aug. 9.

The remaining questions of who will represent their regions as the best 13- and 14-year-old baseball teams have begun identifying themselves.

This year’s Series will be noted for the absence of longtime scorekeeper Steve Gerick, who died in his sleep July 13 at age 52. Gerick had followed in the footsteps of his father, Andy, as official scorekeepers and had long been a key member of the tournament family and a lifelong youth baseball volunteer.

Taylor will again host hundreds of global visitors and players from five U.S. and five international regions. Junior League competition — for players too old for Little League and not yet ready for high school — are playing in qualifying tournaments across the country and around the world in preparation for next month’s tournament.

The international brackets are filling up. Earlier this month a team from South Moravia in Brno, Czech Republic, won its regional tournament and will represent the Europe-Africa division.

Also confirmed was a return engagement for a team from Chinese Taipei — which took the title last year — after all-stars from Chung-Shan Junior High School won the Asia-Pacific championship. From the Mexican brackets, Team Mexico from Mexicali beat Guaymas, Sonora, and qualified for tournament play.

Latin America will be represented by the Pariba Little League all-stars of Willemstad, Curacao, who topped Puerto Rico on July 19 to qualify.

The Junior League World Series was first held in Taylor in 1981 and featured players from four U.S. regions. Before long, the tournament grew to include teams from Canada, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. Players from 29 states and more than two dozen global towns have made the annual trip to Taylor for a week’s worth of competitive ball.

The event continues to grow, and this year’s opening ceremonies — including a parade of champions — will be held the evening of Aug. 8. Opening day games on Aug. 9 launch a daily pool of four elimination contests leading up to the World Championship game on Aug. 16.

All games will be played at Heritage Park, 12111 Pardee Road. The title contest will be broadcast live on ESPN’s website.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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