It is the greatest marketing property, if not straight-up spectacle, in kids’ sports. There is nothing even remotely close in kids’ soccer, hockey or basketball to match the game-day crowds of up to 40,000 and the ABC/ESPN-televised coverage of the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
This rite of summer, the road to Williamsport, begins locally with the District 7 playoffs starting today. The tournament is being hosted by National Little League, the quaint little diamond oasis wedged in tight between Hillside Avenue and Cook Street, amidst busy traffic on all sides.
Hampton plays Central Saanich in the tournament opener this afternoon at 2, followed by a game between Layritz and National at 5 p.m.
Action resumes on Monday with Central Saanich playing Layritz at 3 p.m. and Lakehill meeting Hampton at 6 p.m.
Round-robin games continue daily through Thursday at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The playoff semifinals are next Saturday at noon and 3 p.m., with the final next Sunday at 1 p.m.
The District 7 winner advances to the B.C. championships, from July 20 to 29, hosted by Beacon Hill Little League at Hollywood Park in Fairfield. District 7 hosts the provincials once every seven years. Beacon Hill has an automatic host berth this year. If Beacon Hill wins the District 7 championship this week, the second- place team will advance to the provincial tournament as the district representative.
The B.C. champion will advance to the Canadian championships, from Aug. 2 to 12, in Medicine Hat, Alta. The national champion will represent Canada at the 2017 Little League World Series, from Aug. 17 to 27, in Williamsport, gaining memories to last a lifetime.
Teams from B.C. have represented Canada 25 times in Williamsport, including PNE Hastings last year.
Island teams that have won the Canadian championship and played in the Little League World Series were Esquimalt-Vic West in 1974 and Gordon Head in 1999, the latter with a team that included future MLB outfielder Michael Saunders.
B.C. teams have won the Canadian championship every year since 2005, except for 2013, when East Nepean, from Ottawa, was the national champion.
No Canadian team has won the Little League World Series.
Layritz Park in Saanich will host the 2020 Canadian Little League championships.