Small town, big pitch

Little League World Series draws an international crowd to Williamsport, Pa.

August 19, 2010|By Kayla Cross Bawroski, The Baltimore Sun

For a family event that involves baseball, outer space, parades (and is free), head out to Williamsport, Pa., this weekend to watch the 2010 Little League World Series, which has been hosted by the small Pennsylvania town as it has been since 1947.

"Carl E. Stotz saw his nephews playing baseball and thought it would be nice if they had a team and a league to play on competitively," said Erin Kriner, a spokeswoman for the event, which begins Friday and continues throughout next week.

Stotz started Little League in 1939, and now 16 teams worldwide, from the United States to Asia and the Caribbean, are traveling to Pennsylvania to compete for the international title.

Every other weekend of the year, Williamsport has a population of approximately 40,000, but during the Little League World Series, the town expands to about 250,000, with lots of activities to keep them occupied.

It begins with the sixth annual Grand Slam Parade at 6 p.m. Friday to welcome visitors.

"Another fun and free activity is visiting the sponsor booths," Kriner said. "Outside of the stadium, there is a row of tents set up where sponsors have a booth featuring their product." These booths include Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, David's Seeds and Reebok, among others, with many sponsors offering prizes and giveaways.

"Williamsport Welcomes the World" is a new event this year created to greet international visitors. Downtown Williamsport will be decorated to match the countries represented in the World Series, and will feature international cuisine, art and live entertainment.

One of the most popular events is Friday morning, during the opening ceremony, when the ceremonial first pitch will be thrown — from outer space. The first pitch, thrown aboard the International Space Station, will be seen on a video screen during the ceremony.

The pitch ties in with the NASA exhibit at the Little League Museum. The museum features several items, including a moon rock and a spacesuit worn by Little League graduate Story Musgrave. NASA astronaut and Baltimore native Col. Terry Virts will also be a special guest during the World Series.

Another special guest is Dugout, the mascot of Little League baseball, who can be found throughout the event.

"Visitors, especially younger children, love to watch as he makes his way around the stands and the field, often dressed up in an Elvis or hula costume, as he get fans, players, coaches and umpires to dance with him," Kriner said.

But she said the most important part of the event is inspiring the values of character, courage and loyalty.

"Along with the teams come families, friends, and visitors from around the world to cheer on their team," Kriner said, "and capture the spirit that surrounds Little League baseball."

If you go

The Little League World Series is Friday through Aug. 29. All games are free, and most do not require tickets. Games will be played throughout the day during the weeklong event, starting about noon. For more information and a schedule, go to http://www.littleleague.org/worldseries/index.html.

Getting there

Williamsport, Pa., is less than 170 miles from Baltimore, about a three-hour drive. Take Interstate 83 north to Harrisburg, Pa., then take Route 581 west. Follow Route 581 a short distance to Route 11 / 15. Route 15 will take you all the way into Williamsport.

Lodging

Finding a room this late will be tricky. Visitors can try checking for cancellations or stay in nearby Susquehanna River Valley. For information on accommodations, call the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau at 800-358-9900 or go to vacationpa.com or visit the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau's website at visitcentralpa.com.

Attractions

Knoebels Amusement Park. Considered the largest free admission amusement park in the United States, Knoebels is located about an hour from Williamsport. The park features more than 60 rides, including bumper cars, waterslides and roller coasters. The rides are priced individually, some as low as 75 cents per ride, but visitors can also purchase tickets to ride all day, starting at $20. For more information, go to knoebels.com or call 800-487-4386.

Historic Trolley Tour. Hiawatha Tours offers a trolley ride through historic Williamsport, and it's a great way to get to know the area. The trolley features a ride past Millionaires Row, where lumber barons built their mansions, and Memorial Park, the site of the first Little League baseball game. The tours are available through August, and the trolley picks up visitors at three stops in the area, starting at 10:45 a.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children under 12. For more information go to http://www.ridehiawatha.com or call 570-326-2500.

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