How West Virginia District 1 Makes Special Games More Special
When some Little League® managers talk about “Tournament,” they’re usually thinking of district all-stars or higher aspirations of coaching in a World Series. But more times than not, local or hometown tournaments provide just as many special moments and memories for players, families, and coaches.
The Little League Special Games Option gives leagues and districts the ability to create a tournament setting and allow every player the chance to revel in the experience.
More than 50 years ago in Huntington, W. Va., local Little League programs in the city began a tournament and invited local teams to play each other after the regular season had ended. Les Ghiz, a Little League volunteer in the Huntington area and former District Administrator, embraced the idea of giving all Little Leaguers® the chance to play, and generations later, this “old-school” approach to special games still brings excitement and fun to the leagues through West Virginia District 1.
“Les embraced the idea of kids who didn’t make a tournament team getting the chance to play in a tournament atmosphere,” said Greg Adkins, West Virginia District 1 Administrator and a former director of the annual Les Ghiz Special Games Tournament. “’Little League is about everybody, and that is what Les believed. We still follow Les’s philosophy, and each year we get more than 40 Major Division baseball teams participating and enjoying our tournament.”
When Little Leagues outside of Huntington were re-assigned to District 1 in the mid-1960s, Mr. Ghiz was a driving force behind welcoming those leagues into the district and extended invitations for each to play in the special games tournament. Following his passing, the leagues in the district paid their respect by naming the annual event in his honor.
Mr. Adkins said the tradition of regular-season teams playing by regular-season rules is the big selling point. District 1 has 13 leagues, and, on average, 12 of those leagues participate in these special games.
“I’ve attended four Little League Congresses during my time as a D.A., and I’ve told my fellow D.A.s that an all-team special games tournament is great because it brings all the leagues in your district together,” said Mr. Adkins.
The Les Ghiz Tournament is held at the end of the regular season and before the start of all-star play. Lasting 5-to-7 days and played in four different locations throughout the district, hundreds of players look forward each year to the thrill of becoming tournament champion.
“The leagues and team coaches really enjoy the excitement because these are regular season teams,” said Mr. Adkins. “Even though we operate the tournament after the end of the regular season, this tournament is such a tradition that we’ve never had an all-star coach complain about it cutting into practice time or that taking part had any effect on a team’s play in districts.”
Each year, Mr. Adkins files a special games request with the Southeastern Regional Center in Warner Robins, Ga. After receiving approval, he and his district staff begin to work toward organizing the tournament. Meetings are held with the league presidents, and decisions are made on schedules, the game locations, organizing umpires and operating costs. Each league pays a $25 entry fee to cover the purchase of awards.
“Every person I know in my district has played Little League in this district and in this tournament,” said Mr. Adkins, who himself played in the Ghiz Tournament. “This tournament is special because its tradition. You’re now seeing grandkids of former Little Leaguers playing in the tournament.”
The managers and coaches of each team, most of whom played in “The Ghiz” as children, approach this event with kid-like enthusiasm, hoping to share an experience with their players similar to what made the games special for them in their day. Just as connected are the local league officials, Little League parents and extended families throughout West Virginia District 1, because to them, these special games are truly special.