Little League World Series, regional tournaments fall victim to COVID-19


Sweetwater Valley Little League's 12U all-star team advanced as far as the West Region tournament in San Bernardino. Pictured Josh Hughes on the mound. Photo by Jon Bigornia

For those waiting for summer baseball all-star play to start, they might have to wait a little longer — and lower their expectations a bit — after Little League International President and CEO Stephen Keener announced on a live Facebook feed on Thursday (April 30) that the regional and world series tournaments in all divisions will be cancelled for the 2020 season.

According to a Little League International press release, the organization made the difficult and disappointing decision to cancel the tournaments for the first time in history due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

“This is a heartbreaking decision for everyone at Little League International, but more so for those millions of Little Leaguers who have dreamt of one day playing in one of our seven World Series events,” Keener said in the broadcast.

“After exhausting all possible options, we came to the conclusion that because of the significant public health uncertainty that will still exist several months from now, and with direction from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, as well as senior public health officials and government leaders from locations where our other six World Series are held, as well as the their qualifying regional tournaments, it will not be possible to proceed with our tournaments as we’ve hosted them for nearly 75 years.”

Sweetwater Valley Little League and manager Ward Lannom made a return visit to the West Region tournament last summer. Pictured: Josh Hughes on the basepath. Photo by Jon Bigornia

Keener said Little League International assessed the feasibility of including these tournaments as part of the resumption of play and that a number of factors went into the decision to cancel the events.

Foremost among the reasons for cancellation were the differing time frames for the relaxation of current stay-at-home order at the local and state levels.

Specifically, these regulations have had an effect on travel opportunities across both the United States and in foreign countries concerning the ability to play qualifying tournaments due to direction from federal officials regarding the complexity of international travel restrictions and immigration requirements, according to the Little League International organization.

Teams have indicated to Little League International they would be unable to participate or travel to these qualifying tournaments.

Another issue is testing for the coronavirus, which would require significant infrastructure to set into place at significant public events should an individual participating or attending an event be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Sweetwater Valley represented California District 42 at the plate at the 2019 West Region tournament in San Bernardino. Pictured: Ryan Garcia at the plate.Photo by Jon Bigornia

The cancellation includes 82 regional qualifying tournaments and their respective seven World Series events:

  • Little League Baseball, Aug. 20-30 in South Williamsport, Pa.
  • Little League Softball, Aug. 12-19 in Greenville, N.C.
  • Intermediate (50/70) Baseball, Aug. 2-9 in Livermore, Calif.
  • Junior League Baseball, Aug. 16-23 in Taylor, Mich.
  • Junior League Softball, Aug. 2-8 in Kirkland, Wash.
  • Senior League Baseball, Aug. 1-8 in Easley, S.C.
  • Senior League Softball, Aug. 3-9 in Sussex County, Del.

“Delivering this news comes with a very heavy heart,” said Hugh E. Tanner, who serves as Little League International Board of Directors Chairman. “We have never had to cancel our World Series tournaments, but, right now, as our world comes together, we must do everything we can to help stem the spread of this deadly virus. While we take this pause from the World Series and regional tournaments this summer, we are committed to working with our volunteers and staff to continue to provide an unparalleled youth sports experience to all children and be back stronger than ever in 2021.”

This does not mean that the 2020 Little League season is cancelled at the local level as each state and community have different guidelines for resuming organized youth sports activity after May 11.

Local playing opportunities could include not only regular season activities, but opportunities for local district, and, perhaps, state all-star tournament play to provide players, especially those moving up to a new age division in 2021, a tournament experience, if possible and safe, according to Little League International.

California District 42 Little League administrator Ernie Lucero said the South County-based league is still hopeful that competition can safely be held this summer

“It is disappointing news for sure, but one that could not be avoided due to the current situation and timelines for re-opening,” Lucero said. “Mr. Keener did say that the season can still be played to a limited extent depending on state regulations.”

Lucero said that District 42 will be working closely with Western Region and other districts in Southern California to determine if district all-star tournaments, sectional tournaments and/or Southern California state tournaments fit into this summer’s master schedule.

“This will be contingent on the state and county opening up cities,” Lucero underscored.

A teleconference call between league presidents is scheduled Friday (May 1) to discuss the next steps for playing later in the summer in compliance with local and state health regulations.

“District 42 will monitor information from local and state health officials that it is safe to do so, before resuming Little League activity,” Lucero said. “These playing opportunities could include not only regular season activities, but opportunities for District 42 Tournament of Champions, All-Stars, Sectional, and perhaps, Southern California state All-Star tournament play to provide players, especially those moving up to a new age division in 2021, a tournament experience.

“We have been in communication with other district administrators in our section and in Southern California, and all are in agreement to resume the season when it is safe to do so.

“We are holding regular telecoms with our local presidents to keep everyone updated on the season. As already mentioned, we are working toward resuming the Little League season for everyone. It may happen later than usual, but we still want it to happen.”

Last year’s District 42 champions included Chula Vista American (10U Division), Eastlake (11U Division), Sweetwater Valley (12U Division) and Park View (Junior Division).

Sweetwater Valley defeated Lakeside American (District 41) to win the Section 7 championship.

California Section 7 is comprised of four districts: District 22 (Imperial Valley), District 41 (East County), District 42 (South County) and District 66 (National City/southeastern San Diego/Spring Valley areas).

District 66 serves Las Palmas Little League in National City, National City American Little League and Twin Hills Little League in Paradise Hills as well as programs in Encanto, Lemon Grove, San Diego American, San Diego Southeastern, Skyline, Spring Valley and Valley De Oro.

District 66 administrator Roland Slade said like many district administrators, that he, too, is disappointed by the cancellation of the Regional and World Series Tournaments by Little League International but is understanding.

“I think it was the right thing to do,” Slade said. “Now the decision to move forward with the season is in the hands of the local league board of directors.”

Slade said he will be meeting with District 66 league presidents on May 8. In the meantime, he said the league presidents will be gathering information from their local parks governing body as to the potential re-opening dates of their parks.

Not all the district leagues’ playing fields are under district/league jurisdiction, Slade noted.

“We will be working with the other districts within Southern California to bring play back at some point,” Slade said on an optimistic note.

Last year’s District 66 all-star tournament champions included Lemon Grove Little League (Senior and Intermediate divisions), Spring Valley (Junior 12U and 10U divisions) and Valley de Oro (11U Division).

District 41 is comprised of 17 leagues: Alpine American, Cajon de Oro, El Cajon National, El Cajon Western, Fletcher Hills, Jamul, Julian, Lakeside American, Lakeside National, Mountain Empire, Rancho San Diego, Rios Canyon, Santee Pioneer American, Santana National, Singing Hills, United Santee and West Hills.

Last year’s District 41 all-star tournament champions included Rancho de Oro (10U and 11U divisions) and Lakeside American (12U Division).

District 42 champion Sweetwater Valley defeated Lakeside American to win last year’s 12U Section 7 championship while District 42 champion Chula Vista American defeated Rancho de Oro to win the 10U section title.

District 42 champion Eastlake defeated Rancho de Oro to win the 11U section championship while District 42 champion Park View defeated Spring Valley to win the Junior Division title.

Link to the Little League International cancellation message:

Link to Little League International COVID-19 Updates:

Link to Little League International COVID-19 FAQs:

Andrew Arnce helped lead Sweetwater Valley to an appearance in the 2019 Little League World Series West Region tournament in San Bernardino. Photo by Jon Bigornia

PONY Baseball/Softball World Series events cancelled

PONY Baseball and Softball Inc. remained hopeful that players would get the chance to take to the diamond this summer, but decided May 1 that due to the significant public health uncertainty that exists surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to cancel its eight baseball and three softball World Series events.

The decision was based on the assessment that the pandemic will continue for several months.

The PONY organization said upon review of guidelines from the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control, as well as senior public health officials and government leaders from locations where the seven World Series events are scheduled, that it would not be possible to proceed with the 2020 World Series schedule.

“With an overabundance of caution and in order to ensure that our athletes from all over the world are able to compete in a safe environment, we have had to make this very difficult decision to cancel our World Series events in 2020,” Pony President Abraham Key said. “PONY stands for Protect Our Nation’s Youth and PONY believes we would be reckless and irresponsible to host these events under the current circumstances. We will be back in 2021 with a full schedule of league play, tournament play and our popular World Series events.

PONY had previously suspended play through May 1.

The PONY organization left it open for local leagues to continue with their seasons in conjunction with guidelines set forth by local and state health officials.

If leagues choose to continue to operate at the local level, PONY administrators that they will need to seek the counsel of their state government, community municipalities, parks and recreation, public health departments and local school districts in what phases those facilities will reopen.

Many of PONY’s spring and summer facilities are located on school, municipal or park grounds.

PONY is recommending that local leagues extend their regular seasons. However, any all-star tournament play beyond the local level is expected to be reduced in some form.

The season was to culminate with the Pony League World Series Aug. 7-12 in Washington, Pa.

Prior to the May 1 announcement of cancellations, PONY had previously announced that it had cancelled all Asia Pacific, Caribbean and European zone tournaments.

PONY announced on March 20 that, after careful consideration and discussion, it had decided to cancel the 2020 Mexico Champions World Series scheduled May 11-13.

“After consultation with PONY Mexico we have decided to cancel the 2020 PONY Champions World Series in Hermosillo due to COVID-19,” Key said in a statement. “As we monitor this pandemic we are concerned for the safety of our players, families and volunteers.”

Besides travel concerns due to government regulations, other concerns included testing and mitigation protocols.

Key said that the organization’s priority is to ensure a safe environment for a local league season.

“This has been a difficult decision as we know how much this means to our youth and their families from around the globe,” PONY Chairman of the Board Steve Miller said.

Once regular season play starts at the local league level, the national organization will evaluate the amount of time remaining in the summer to schedule some form of tournament play at all age-group levels. This could consist of a single state tournament if permissible under that state’s health directives or a multi-state zone tournament.

“We encourage our leagues to continue with their local programs in conjunction with local and state health official guidelines,” Miller said. “As allowed, and where possible, there may be opportunities for local play and tournaments.”

Events affected by the cancellation include:

Mustang-9 World Series – Walnut, Calif.
Mustang World Series – Youngsville, La.
Bronco-11 World Series – Chesterfield, Va.
Bronco World Series – Laredo, Texas
Pony-13 World Series – Whittier, Calif.
Pony (14) World Series – Washington, Pa.
Colt World Series – Marion, Ill.
Palomino World Series – Laredo, Texas
Girls Softball World Series – Hemet, Calif.
Girls Softball World Series – Sterling, Va.
Girls Softball World Series – Houston, Texas

PONY baseball teams have recorded quite of bit of success at the national level.

El Cajon Emerald made history by winning Mustang-9 and Pony-13 world series championships in the same season in 2016.

Eastlake’s Pony-13 all-star team made history by advancing to last year’s West Zone tournament while La Mesa-based San Diego Competitive represented the San Diego region in the Pony-13 World Series.

Tecolote won the 2019 Mustang-9 World Series following a 10-1 victory against Long Beach.

Other 2019 division champions included Placentia (Mustang-10), Redondo Beach (Bronco-11), Chinese Taipei (Bronco-12, Pony-14 and Palomino), Hilo/Hawaii (Pony-13) and Southern Illinois (Colt).

For more information, visit the website at

Locals only
Chula Vista South Pony League President Omar Castro said his league is waiting on word from the Chula Vista Parks and Recreation Department when teams can start practicing on fields located at 1500 Max Avenue near Castle Park High School to possibly salvage their season.

Until then, he said all activities remain on hold.

The league has five teams registered for the 2020 season: one Pony team, three Bronco teams and one Shetland (6U) team

“It’s just disappointing,” he said.

Castro said some expenses had been paid in advance, including that for uniforms, which could create a financial bind.

“I have no idea how we are gonna pull this one out,” he said.

Chula Vista North Pony league president Larry Denson said his league is also hoping to pull out the season.

“We are still hoping to get a regular season in once the isolation has been lifted,” Denson said.

Chula Vista North is carrying seven teams this season in the 12- to 14-year-old age group.


American Legion Baseball cancels national championship event
While the American Legion organization has cancelled its regional and World Series events, it has left the door open for competition at the local level.

The San Diego District 22 regular season is scheduled to start May 27 and end July 8.

The district championship tournament is scheduled July 11-12, followed by the Area 5 tournament July 17-19 and the state tournament July 22-26.

The now cancelled western regional tournament was scheduled Aug. 5-9 in Fairfield, Calif., followed by the World Series in Shelby, N.C.

The Patrick Henry Trojans are the two-time defending district champion. The Trojans posted a third-place finish at last year’s state championship tournament after finishing third at the state tournament in 2018.

Three South County programs fielded American Legion teams in 2019: Bonita Seahawks, Montgomery Harriers and Mater Dei Crusaders.