The boys of summer will play. But a year later than expected.
The 2021 Canadian Little League Championship will be held at Layritz Park after the 2020 national tournament, scheduled for the Saanich facility in August, was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, will not be held this summer for the first time in its 73-year history.
“I feel badly for [originally scheduled 2021 Canadian Little League Championship host Rocky Mountain of Calgary] but they will still get it in 2022 and they have been very gracious about it,” said Shannon Nakatsu, tournament chair for Layritz Little League’s organizing committee.
“We didn’t know what to do. We had put three years into this so did not want to get nothing out of it. I am glad we will still get the opportunity to host. It’s great for the park. All our sponsors had stayed in place. We realize it will be tough finding additional sponsorships [in what could be a difficult economic environment] next year.”
It is the second announcement about a major Victoria sporting event shifted to next year.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic men’s basketball qualifying tournament would have been raging this week at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre but has been rescheduled to June 29-July 4, 2021, to coincide with the new Olympic starting date of July 23, 2021.
Rescheduling, however, is an inexact business. Kelowna, host of the cancelled 2020 Memorial Cup, wasn’t as fortunate. The Canadian Hockey League has decided not to return to the Okanagan next year and will continue with its planned rotation with the 2021 Memorial Cup being held in Sault Ste. Marie or Oshawa, Ont.
Nakatsu said the budget for the Canadian Little League Championship is over $100,000. The playoff stages of the 2020 tournament would have been broadcast nationally on CBC from Aug. 6 to 16.
More than 3,000 bleacher seats were to be brought in to ring the Layritz diamond. That order can now officially be held off to next year.
There is, however, a bittersweet element to the announcement in that the all-12-year-old Layritz team was put together as eight-year-olds building to this summer in the hopes of reaching the 2020 Little League World Series in Williamsport. That group of players will age out and be ineligible to play in the nationals next summer.
“Those kids will unfortunately miss out,” said Nakatsu.
“The idea of extending eligibility was raised internationally but was shot down.”
Dave Potter will return to guide Layritz at the 2021 nationals in what will be his 20th year at the park, 18th as coach.
“I feel sad for the 12-year-olds who put in all their time over the past few summers to prepare for this year,” said Potter. “It is a dream cut short for them.”
Layritz was built for this moment and looking to become the third Island team to get to Williamsport following Esquimalt-Vic West in 1974 and Gordon Head in 1999.
“Obviously, we were building for this year,” said Potter.
“It is indeed bittersweet. But this is still good for the park and the city and an unexpected opportunity to host 2021 nationals for the next group of players, who are also energetic and enthusiastic. This is a chance for them to grasp hold of the experience.”
Coquitlam is the defending Canadian champion from 2019. B.C. teams have won the Canadian championship every year since 2005 except for 2013, when East Nepean of Ottawa was the national champion.
No Canadian team has won the Little League World Series. The only Canadian team to reach the final was Stoney Creek, Ont., in 1965.