EASLEY – In a move that surprised many, officials at Little League International have announced a “restructuring” of the Little League divisions that caps the age of eligibility at 16-years-old – effectively eliminating the 17- and 18-year-olds from play and putting an end to the Big League World Series.
No more Big League World Series? What does that mean for Easley? Well, all is not lost.
According to Little League President Stephen Keener, the new “top” division of players – ages 14 through 16 – will now compete in the Senior League World Series to be relocated from its previous home in Bangor, Maine, to Easley at the JB Red Owens Sports Complex.
In an interview published in The Bangor Daily News, Keener stated that the decision to move the Senior Series to Easley was “one of the hardest decisions” he has made in his 37 years with Little League.
“When reviewing both locations, Easley offers dormitory housing with support from Clemson University and is a more central location with easier transportation options for all participants, families and fans,” quoted Keener to The News. “This was an extremely difficult decision given that both sites have fantastic facilities and volunteers that support our tournaments.”
The series was originally played in Kissimmee, Fla., before it was moved to Bangor where the event has taken place for the past 15 years.
Little League officials credited Easley’s proximity to three major airports (Greenville, Charlotte and Atlanta) as another weight that helped to tip the scales in its favor.
Easley Mayor Larry Bagwell said he heard about the change after a called meeting with BLWS tournament director John Humphrey and city administrator Stephen Steese.
“The Little League chairman, Mr. Keener, he sees that we are an A+ facility. He asked us if we would take it (the Senior Series) and you know, we’ll take it for a year and see if it’s still viable,” said Bagwell. “Then we’ll go from then on out. But you know, we just have too nice of a facility to not have something of that magnitude going on.”
Bagwell said he got the impression the Little League organization decided to do away with the 17- and 18-year-old division because of dwindling participation.
“You know, when you get to be that age, a lot of those kids are playing for the American Legion or something like that,” he said. “But I think this could work out better for everyone. These kids are a little younger so I’m thinking the parents and their families will follow them a little more. This could be very interesting.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.