Every summer, sixteen of the best Little League baseball teams in the world converge on Williamsport, Pennsylvania to compete for the title of World Champion. Anyone living near the area is so fortunate to have this gem in their backyard. I took a trip to the Little League World Series to watch some games last Thursday, the first day of the tournament.
It has been about 12 years since our family took a day trip to Williamsport to watch a few games. We started going to the LLWS in 2001, which was my brother’s second year of Little League and my first. I do not remember much about our first trip, since it was a whole new experience, and so much to take in!
The second year, I watched nearly every game on ESPN and we were more prepared when we took our annual trip! My brother and I took baseballs for some of the players to autograph. I remember watching a team from Louisville, Kentucky play with two outstanding pitchers. If you would like to find out a little more about some of our trips to the Little League World Series, you can check out my latest YouTube video.
In 2002, the Little League that we played for went through the process of becoming affiliated with Williamsport, meaning that we had the opportunity to play through tournaments that would eventually lead to the World Series. I was 12 years old and my brother was 9. We had about 14 eleven and twelve year olds in our league, so the majority of us made the all-star team. We did not make it past district pool play, but we will forever be the first kids named to the all-star team for our local league! And I will forever be the first girl to play on the all-star team. No one can take that away from us.
Three years later, my brother was on the 11 & 12 year old all-star team, and they were quite good! They did not make it out of the district tournament, but they had a great core group of ballplayers.
Fast forward to 2017, and I made the decision to travel up to the Little League World Series. I did not want to go over the weekend, because I knew it would be packed. So, being a teacher and having summers off, I went up on opening day, which was last Thursday.
I am not a fan of going places myself. But, everyone else in my family works, and a friend I asked was unable to go, so I was brave. And honestly, I did not even mind being alone! It is such a relaxing environment, and for the most part, people are nice. It’s such a family friendly environment!
The field inside Lamade Stadium is simply gorgeous. I think all baseball fields are beautiful in their own right. There is something about the precision of it all. And the fields in Williamsport are no exception. They truly are shining gems.
There is so much to do! The event has grown quite a bit in the last dozen years! There were way more food stands than I remember! And the activities for kids to do expanded as well. The trio AJR played live on a stage. ESPN had a broadcasting booth setup between the stadiums. This was all new to me!
Major League Baseball and Little League also partnered to give the boys in the World Series an opportunity to meet and hang out with players from the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. Can you even imagine what that must’ve been like?? Last Sunday evening, all Little League baseball came to a halt as the kids were transported to Bowman Field in Williamsport proper to watch a Major League game. A friend and I ran a 5K that ended on that field at the beginning of the summer! I thought that was cool, and I wasn’t even there when the Pirates and Cardinals were. How awesome must that have been for those boys?! What a wonderful opportunity!
Of course, baseball remains the same. There are 16 teams from around the globe vying for the title of the best Little League team in the world. Their skill levels are incredible. I watched three players from Texas hit back to back to back homeruns. One was a no-doubter that landed on top of the first hill! The defensive plays have been amazing too. These kids leave it all out on the field!
The hill behind Lamade Stadium is covered in kids with cardboard boxes sliding down. Which, by the way, I think is amazing! No iPads, no TVs, no electronics…just cardboard! I love to see kids just run and play!
I had a wonderful time! So many memories came rushing back.
I do have a few helpful tips to keep in mind if you decide to take a trip to Williamsport this weekend for the championship games, or in years to come.
Hotel rooms are difficult to find.
If you are traveling a good distance and need to stay in a hotel room, book it early! Yes, Williamsport is a city with hotels available. But there is not much outside of Williamsport! A commentator for ESPN talked to a man who ended up staying 1 hour 40 minutes away because he could not find any hotels closer! That is like staying in Harrisburg or New York state!
There is free parking available.
Had I not gone before, I may have been a little confused by the parking situation. As I was driving up Route 15, there were signs saying “Parking $5” on both sides of the road. One sign even listed the distance from their yard to the stadium! If you want to park there, you can. But Little League provides stadium parking down the hill behind the fields. There are professional-looking signs hung along the road that give clear direction to the stadium parking. There are volunteers to direct fans into appropriate parking spots. The walk is not that long either. And, if you are unable or choose not to walk, there are shuttles available that pick up at various stops and drop visitors off near the entrance to the complex.
Be aware of prohibited and permitted items.
For safety reasons, there is a limited number of items visitors are allowed to take with them into the Little League complex. There are metal detectors and security checks at the entrances to the complex. I went with only a wristlet and had no trouble at all. For a complete list of permitted and prohibited items, click here and here.
Hill chairs come in handy!
This has become a new trend in the last twelve years. I do not know who is originally responsible for this idea, but they took old plastic lawn chairs and cut the back legs off. This way, the legs fit the angle of the hill and the chair sits straight up, rather than leaning forward and feeling like the occupant is going to topple into the person sitting below them! There were even some “hill chairs” for sale at a motel as I was driving up through! Ingenious!
Look into registering for family wristbands before arrival.
As I was watching one of the games, there was an announcement about registering for wristbands to have access to the Family Fun Zone. This was all new to me, so I did a little research on the matter. As it turns out, these wristbands contain an RFID chip. I am not certain what capabilities these wristbands have, but there is a long list of sponsors with booths in the Family Fun Zone. I even saw pictures of kids swinging a bat wearing VR goggles! I am a grown-up and that sounds so cool! If you intend to visit booths in the Family Fun Zone, check out the wristband registration here.
Arrive early, especially for United States games.
I lived this firsthand. The New Jersey/Connecticut game started at 3:00. I was canning something that morning that took longer than I anticipated, so I did not leave when I wanted to. I arrived a little after 3:00, but I thought because it was a Thursday afternoon, and not everyone has summers off, it would not be too full. I walked around the outfield hill to see if there were any seats available in the stadium. There were maybe a few, but I was not about to walk all around the stadium and disturb anyone with an open seat beside them! So, I found a place to stand beside the flag pole in centerfield. It was quite a good view, and provided me with some good pictures! But it was really hot, and I did not bring a chair.
For the second United States game, I picked a seat about an hour before the game started and ate my dinner. About a half hour before the first pitch was thrown, people really began filtering into the stands, trying to find a seat.
A perk of sitting on the hill is that you can leave your chairs set up all day. Chances are good that no one is going to disturb them. Fans must take everything with them out of the stadium seats after each game.
There is a huge variety of food, so be sure to eat at least one meal there.
I was amazed at the number of food stands! The last time we were up, there was one big food stand between the stadiums and that was about it. Now, there are a variety of smaller Little League sponsored concession stands, along with the large one. There are also a few outside vendors off to the side. One that particularly caught my eye was the fried dough stand. I was confused, until I saw some eating some. It is literally a flat circle of dough, thrown in the deep fryer, and topped with powdered sugar. I had no idea that was a thing!
Bring some pieces of cardboard for the kids.
A hugely popular tradition for kids visiting the Little League World Series is to slide down the highest outfield hill on cardboard. My brother and I did this with some friends one of the years we were up. It was a lot of fun! It is definitely something a child should experience at least once in their lifetime!
Visit the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum while you’re there.
Above the hills of Lamade Stadium, right along Route 15 lies the Little League Museum. It’s been a solid 15 years since I have been in the museum, but there is all kinds of information about the history of Little League. Check out this website for more information.
Remember, these are twelve-year-olds playing baseball on an enormous stage.
One of my favorite things about this event is really considering the talent these young baseball players have been given and the hard work they have put in to get this far. There are so many amazing defensive plays made, and so many timely hits. But sometimes we need to take a step back and realize they are still children. They commit errors. They may cry after a tough loss. And that is heartbreaking to watch, but it adds to the greatness of this event.
The Little League World Series is a wonderful experience, for fans and players alike. There is plenty for families to do, along with watching some great baseball games! This weekend will be the United States, International, and World Championship games, which will be aired on ABC. Check your local listings, because each of these games are going to be fun to watch!
If you’ve visited the Little League World Series in South Williamsport before, I would love to hear about your experience! Please feel free to comment! And if you’ve never been, but are considering it, I hope you find this post helpful and encouraging! If you have any pictures from past or present Little League World Series tournaments, share them on Instagram or Twitter using #llwsblog. Happy baseball days, everybody!