Easley’s Senior League World Series canceled

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Easley’s J.B. “Red” Owens Complex will not host an international tournament this summer for the first time in nearly 20 years after the 2020 Senior League Baseball World Series was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Little League International President and CEO Stephen Keener announced the cancellation Thursday during a Facebook Live video.

“The devastating impact of this COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of our society and has had devastating impacts on economies, communities, neighborhoods and even local Little League programs,” Keener said.

After consulting with public health officials in more than 10 states that host regional qualifying tournaments and seven World Series, “we’ve come to the conclusion, based on the recommendation and guidance from them, that it will be virtually impossible for us to conduct regional and World Series tournaments in the summer of 2020,” he said.

Mayor Butch Womack said the cancellation of the Senior League World Series, which moved to Easley in 2017 after the city had hosted the Big League World Series from 2001-20016, wasn’t unexpected.

“It was a sad announcement, but we did expect it and we know that’s probably the best decision they could make right now, being that the virus is active and there would be people coming in from other countries and people probably skeptical about traveling in from other countries,” he said. “I hate it because it was going to be my first year to attend as mayor, but hopefully we can make next year bigger and better.”

Little League International also consulted federal officials on international travel and monitoring activities “in many of the countries where Little League is played,” according to Keener.

“What we’ve learned from the federal officials is that many of the travel restrictions that are in place will have significant impact on our ability to have teams from other countries participate in qualifying tournaments and ultimate come to the United States for a World Series tournament, based on immigration complexities that will be in place certainly this summer,” he said.

In addition to the Senior League Baseball World Series, the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., and five other divisional World Series tournaments are all canceled, Keener said.

“Let me tell the folks in all those communities, and in all of the sites where we have regional qualifying tournaments, how very disappointed we are to have to do this,” he said. “But it was inevitable. We learned through consultation with these officials that it would be irresponsible and impossible to bring teams and thousands of people from all over the world into the community of Williamsport, as well as those other six communities that have been such great friends and supporters of ours for many years.”

The cancellations “are unfortunate,” Keener said.

“We’re as disappointed as anyone,” he said. “We’ve never had to do this before, but we’re doing a lot of things we’ve never had to do before. In the bigger picture of things, playing baseball and softball is pretty far down low on the list of important things that need to be attended to right now.

“But we also understand how important Little League is to your kids and your community, and we want to see that come back in some form in the summer of 2020,” Keener continued.

There is optimism, he said.

Keener had a message for “district administrators, league officials, parents, coaches, anyone who may be watching this and wondering.”

“As your states, and your countries to some extent, begin to reopen and allow activities to be pursued, it is then and only then we would advise you to either restart or begin your 2020 Little League season,” he said. “Now we’re hopeful you will all attempt to do it, so the millions of kids who are confined to home and are isolated and are frustrated and disappointed will have a 2020 Little League season.

“Unfortunately, that season will not conclude with regional and World Series tournaments,” Keener continued.

Little League encourages states and areas less impacted by the pandemic, at the end of the regular season or however many games local officials want to play, to have a district all-star tournament.

“So that particularly those kids who are moving on after a last year of age eligibility would have an opportunity to play in a district all-star,” Keene said.

For some areas, it might be feasible “to take it to the next level,” via a sectional or state tournament, he said.

“Little League International will be there to guide you through that,” Keener said.

Little League would be sending out additional information, he said.

“One thing I will tell you is we will be very, very amenable to eligibility requirements and be very flexible to allow as many kids the opportunity to play as possible for whatever can remain of the 2020 Little League season,” Keener said.

Womack said Easley recreation director Gregg Powell is awaiting further information from Little League International about the possibility of a local district all-star tournament.

Once Powell has that information, he’ll bring it before city council so they can discuss what fields might be used, he said.

“That’s going to be a big decision down the road,” Womack said.