For the first time in the 65-year history of the Little League Baseball World Series, a team from Africa will be in the field. Rev. John Foundation Little League from Kampala, Uganda, won the Middle East and Africa Region Tournament today with a 6-4 victory over 17-time World Series qualifier since 1991, Arabian American Little League from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
The five-team, four-day tournament was played at the Little League Baseball European Leadership Training Center in Kutno, Poland.
"We are delighted to have a team from Africa represented for the first time at the World Series this year," Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. "We have to acknowledge the hard work of Richard Stanley, who has played a pivotal role in helping Little League get started in Uganda and his continued assistance in helping the league on a year-to-year basis."
To earn their berth in the World Series, the team from Africa had to avenge their only loss in the tournament, a 3-2 setback to the Arabian American Little League in the round-robin portion of the tournament. To get to the championship game, the top two teams in round-robin play would vie for the title, Rev. John Foundation Little League defeated Kuwait (6-4, Kuwait Little League from Kuwait City), the United Arab Emirates (6-3, Dubai Little League from Dubai, United Arab Emirates) and South Africa (12-2, Kwa Zulu Natal Baseball Association Little League from Durban, South Africa).
The loss in the title game broke a string of 11 consecutive years in which the Arabian American Little League had earned a berth in the World Series.
Little League in Uganda is relatively new with the first local leagues chartering in 2005. In 2008, Rev. John Foundation Little League played in the regional tournament for the first time. They also played in the regional last year. This year was the first time they had reached the championship game with the chance to earn a berth in the World Series.
Rev. John Foundation Little League will play their first World Series game on Aug. 19, against the champion from Canada.
The 65th Little League Baseball World Series, for 11-12-year-olds, will be played in South Williamsport, Pa., Aug. 18-28. Sixteen teams from around the world will vie for the coveted title of World Champion.
For the first time since the World Series went to 16 teams in 2001, the teams will be split into two eight-team brackets – a U.S. bracket and an International bracket. For the last 10 years, the 16 teams had been split into four four-team pools.
In addition, this year a modified double-elimination format will be used that eliminates the "if necessary" games from the tournament.
The 2011 World Series is the fifth under an eight-year television contract with ESPN/ABC. All games of the World Series will be televised live, in high definition, on the ESPN family of networks or ABC. ABC will air the World Series championship game, Aug. 28 at 3 p.m., and the U.S. and International Championship games the previous day beginning with the International contest at 1 p.m. and the U.S. game to follow. For the first time, 17 World Series games will air on ESPN 3D this year.
As has been the case since 1997, everyone can follow the road to South Williamsport for the squads from the U.S. with ESPN and its family of networks coverage of the Little League Baseball regionals. Live coverage of the semifinals and championship game at all eight regional sites begins August 9. In addition, the New England Sports Network (NESN) will televise four pool play games in the New England Regional, played at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Leadership Training Center in Bristol, Conn., and both semifinals.
The U.S. regional finals will be televised as follows (all times eastern): Southwest Region (Aug. 11, 8 p.m., Waco, Texas, ESPN2); Southeast Region (Aug. 12, 8 p.m., Warner Robins, Ga., ESPN); Great Lakes Region (Aug. 13, 11 a.m., Indianapolis, Ind., ESPN2); New England Region (Aug. 13, 1 p.m., Bristol, Conn., ESPN2); Northwest Region (Aug. 13, 5 p.m., San Bernardino, Calif., ESPN); Midwest Region (Aug. 13, 7 p.m., Indianapolis, Ind., ESPN); West Region (Aug. 13, 9 p.m., San Bernardino, Calif., ESPN); and Mid-Atlantic Region (Aug. 14, 6 p.m., Bristol, Conn., ESPN2).
The next berth in the Little League Baseball World Series is expected to be decided today when the champion in the Caribbean Region Tournament will be determined.
Edogawa Minami Little League from Tokyo became the first champion from Japan since 2003 in last year's World Series defeating Waipio Little League from Waipahu, Hawaii, 4-1, in the title game.
Follow every step of the Little League Baseball World Series on the Little League web site (www.LittleLeague.org).
Little League Baseball and Softball is the world's largest organized youth sports program, with more than 2.5 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries.