Dear Little League® Volunteers, Families, Friends, and Fans,
As another Little League season ends, all who love this great game reflect on the amazing memories that were made, the daunting challenges that were overcome, and the bright future that awaits in the year ahead.
Forced to halt Little League play for the first time in our history during 2020, we entered the 2021 Season with two core aspirations: (1) where possible, guide our leagues toward a safe return to ballfields in our communities around the world, and (2) if possible, offer some form of tournament play, but only if and where the well-being of our players, coaches, and volunteers could be assured. Facing disparate challenges wreaked by the global pandemic, thousands of Little League volunteers went above and beyond to safely accomplish these goals. To each and every one of them we owe a great debt of gratitude. Indeed, because of their selfless efforts, millions of children returned to the diamond and forged the next chapter in their Little League stories.
We also must express our utmost appreciation to the accomplished professionals who volunteered their time and expertise on the Little League Pandemic Response Advisory Commission chaired by UPMC Physician and Little League International Director Dr. Dan Lueders. The Pandemic Commission, as well as the medical professionals with National Jewish Health, the country’s leading respiratory health authority, led by Dr. Jay Finigan, helped Little League develop a comprehensive COVID-19 mitigation plan to play postseason tournaments in a safe and responsible manner. As a result, thousands of children were able to play a scaled version of our Little League Baseball and Softball tournaments, continuing decades of baseball tradition in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and forging a new softball tradition in the great city of Greenville, North Carolina.
Without question, our sights are set squarely on the future and 2022 promises to be a banner year for the Little League program. We remain committed to providing our local leagues and volunteers with support and service as they prepare for the season. In addition, in June we will gather with our District Administrators and other volunteers in Williamsport for the 28th Little League International Congress, to determine how we can continue to improve the Little League experience for our players, families, and volunteers in the years to come.
While every Little League International Tournament is special, this upcoming year will be one for the history books as we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Little League Baseball World Series. We eagerly anticipate the return of the international teams to our World Series tournaments and bringing back that unique Regional and World Series experience at our teenage divisions that we have sorely missed during the past two years.
We also look forward to providing even more World Series opportunities for our Little League Baseball and Softball players as we expand to 20 teams in Williamsport, adding two new United States Regions and a three-country rotation for two new International Regions, with Panama and Puerto Rico having direct entry in 2022 and Cuba and Panama rounding out the field in Williamsport in 2023. In addition, our Little League Softball World Series will expand to 12 teams in 2022, adding two new United States Regions to the competition in Greenville.
In closing, on behalf of everyone at Little League International, thank you again to our volunteers, families, and, most importantly, our players for their resilience during a difficult 2021. We are hopeful for a return to normalcy in 2022 and to making amazing Little League memories in the season ahead.
Hugh E. Tanner
Little League International Board of Directors Chairman