Little League spurns Vancouver for World Series tournament

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

A big swing by a group of Little League volunteers to bring a World Series to Propstra Stadium in Vancouver ended in disappointment.

The Little League International board of directors has selected Livermore, Calif., to host the 2013 World Series for its newest baseball division. Beginning next season, Little League will offer a division for ages 11-13 with 70-foot base paths and a distance of 50 feet from the pitching mound to home plate.

Vancouver was one of three sites considered to host the new World Series, and local organizers were surprised and disappointed not to be selected. A Chicago-area Little League was the other finalist.

Mike Ray, the local district administrator who spearheaded Vancouver's bid, initially expressed surprise that the tournament went to Livermore instead of to Vancouver. But he said he understood the reluctance of the Little League Board of Directors to put a third World Series in the Pacific Northwest.

The Little League Softball World Series is played at Alpenrose Dairy in southwest Portland. The Junior League Softball World Series is held in Kirkland.

"They felt that our close proximity to Portland and that Series, and the fact that the other is in Washington, disqualified us from consideration," Ray said. "Even though we had a great presentation, it came down to geography."

Vancouver has hosted regional tournaments for both baseball and softball. This month, the Junior League Baseball Western Regional was held at Propstra Stadium at Hudson's Bay High School. That tournament, also under the Little League umbrella, is for ages 13-14 and involves 12 teams from 10 states.

Ray said he plans to ask Little League to host that tournament again in 2013 at Propstra Stadium.

"It was a difficult choice, since all the cities are so close in terms of what they have to offer," said Stephen Keener, president of Little League Baseball and Softball. "Any of them, we are confident, would do a terrific job of hosting such a high-profile event.

"Ultimately, the board of directors settled on Northern California, the greater San Francisco area, Livermore, and Granada Little League, as its top choice."

Operated as the 50/70 Pilot Program since 2010, Little Leagues have fielded teams in the experimental 11-13 division. The new league offers a bridge between the 60-foot base paths used through the 12-year-old division and the full-sized 90-foot base paths used for Junior League and older. The name for the new division, and other details, will be announced later.

Ray, who as the administrator for Little League District 4 oversees about half of the Little Leagues in Clark County, said that there were 10 teams in the experimental 50/70 division this spring in 2012. During the experimental phase players ages 11-13 were allowed to play both 50/70 ball and in the established league for their age.

Ray said Little League officials approached him about bidding for the new World Series. He said members of the community rallied around the proposal, with local elected officials, the Chamber of Commerce and the Vancouver Sports Council involved in making an enthusiastic bid.

"We had plenty of community support for it. That was amazing to see," Ray said.

He added that landing a World Series would have been a nice alternative after a failed 2011 attempt to make Vancouver home for the Class A Northwest League's Yakima Bears.

"I'm more disappointed for the community than I am for myself," Ray said.