Today's major league stars started as children with dreams. So what have they taken with them from those early days when they were just learning the game? Experiences that carried them from Little League fields to big league parks.
The Hills will once again represent Australia at the Little League World Series and -- thanks to an assist from former major leaguer Trent Oeltjen -- many of these kids are already dreaming of much bigger things.
The qualification process for the Little League World Series begins in the months before the tournament, when each local Little League program puts together an all-star team within its league. That team goes on to compete in district, sectional and state tournaments, most of which are double-elimination. The state champions (each state sends two teams) go on to a regional competition, broken up into eight regions:
New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Great Lakes, Midwest, Northwest, Southwest and West. Eight divisions also compete in the international bracket: Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Latin America, Japan, Asia-Pacific, Europe-Middle East-Africa and Trans-Atlantic. More than 7,000 teams -- 6,500 in the U.S. -- participate in the tournament, with 6,500 of them eliminated within the first three weeks.
World Series Format
The Little League World Series is contested by 16 teams: the eight winners of the regional tournaments and eight international champions. In 2010, the tournament was determined by double elimination for the first time. The two brackets (the U.S. and international brackets) are divided into two pools. The winner of each pool goes on to a single-elimination championship game within its bracket. Then the U.S. and international champions compete for the World Series title in the championship game.
Each team still will play at least three games -- the four teams that lose both games in their pool will play a consolation match against an international team that also dropped out in two games.
Players in the Little League World Series must be between the ages of 11 and 13. Players must provide birth certificates to show they are of age. The birth-date cutoff -- the earliest date that players could turn 13 -- is May. That means many of the players in the later rounds of the tournament have already turned 13.
Girls are allowed to participate in the Little League World Series, although there also is a separate softball World Series. Girls were not allowed to participate in Little League until 1974, when the rules were revised to allow inclusion. Little League's softball programs were created the same year. Victoria Roche was the first girl to play in a Little League World Series, in the 1984 competition for the Brussels (Belgium) international squad. The 2004 tournament marked the first time two girls played in the same World Series (it happened again in 2009).
Howard J. Lamade Stadium
Howard J. Lamade Stadium is the field in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, that has played host to the Little League Baseball World Series every year since 1959. Located off U.S. Route 15, the field is named for the late vice president of Grit Publishing who was a member of the Little League board of directors in the 1950s.
The field is roughly two-thirds the size of a conventional major league field. The pitching rubber is 46 feet from home plate, while basepaths are 60 feet in length. The distance from home plate to all points of the outfield fence at Lamade Stadium is 225 feet.
It is estimated that more than 40,000 fans could be accommodated, including those on the hills beyond the outfield fences. The stadium seats between 8,000 and 10,000 fans.
Little League Volunteer Stadium
Situated next to Howard J. Lamade Stadium at Little League Baseball's headquarters in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Little League Volunteer Stadium can accommodate approximately 5,000 spectators (including lawn seating).
Little League Volunteer Stadium is used for early-round games of the Little League World Series. Admission to and parking for games during the Little League World Series is free, with seating available on a first-come, first-served basis.