Aguadulce Cabezera Little League was crowned the 2022 Panama Region Champion with a 12-0 victory over Villa de Los Santos Little League in February, marking history as it earned the country’s first direct entry to the Little League Baseball® World Series (LLBWS) as part of the expanded bracket in 2022. The team won the Panama Region tournament after finishing 5-0 and outscoring its opponents, 30-3.
The decision to expand the LLBWS to 20 teams was made in 2019 and included providing two international teams with direct entry as part of a three-year rotation based on their overall league and player participation within the program. As part of that randomly-selected rotation, Panama was chosen to earn direct entry in 2022 and 2023, and in 2024 will continue to have the opportunity to earn the right to go to Williamsport by competing in the Latin America Region Tournament. Puerto Rico will be joining Panama with direct entry in 2022, and Cuba will join Panama in 2023. These three countries were selected for the expanded international rotation because of the high-level of Little League programs within their respective countries. With their win in February, Aguadulce Cabezera LL becomes the first team to punch its ticket to the 2022 LLBWS and will be competing as one of the 20 teams from all over the globe to compete in the event in August.
Aguadulce Cabezera LL has been to the LLBWS three previous times, representing the country as Latin America Region Champion in 2012, 2013, and 2016. This trip marks Panama’s 11th overall trip to Williamsport and its first since 2018. That year, Vacamonte Little League of Arraijan, Panama, went 1-2 in tournament action, earning its sole victory over the Canada Region Champions from Whalley Little League in Surrey, B.C. Panama’s best finish came in 1993, when David Doleguita Little League finished as the LLBWS runners-up.
As part of their 10 previous trips, Panama has also seen two of its former Little League Baseball World Series participants go on to careers in Major League Baseball in Ruben Tejada (2001 – Activo 20-30 Little League – Santiago, Panama) and Christian Bethancourt (2004 – Curundu Little League – Panama City, Panama).
Throughout the years, Panama has been engrained in the history of the Little League program, even outside of the World Series. In 1950, the first leagues outside the United States were formed on either side of the Panama Canal with the Pacific and Atlantic Little Leagues of Balboa. Panama is also home to Mariano Rivera, a graduate of the Barrio Colon Little League (La Chorrea, Panama) in the 1980s and a 2015 Enshrinee of the Little League Hall of Excellence.
The 2022 LLBWS marks the 75th Anniversary of the iconic event and will include celebrations throughout the year leading up to this year’s World Series in August. More information about the 2022 Little League World Series tournaments, including game schedule, attendance policies, and more, will be made available in the coming weeks at LittleLeague.org/WorldSeries.