Attention fixed on LLWS
Ratings, attendance reaching new heights
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - The small-town charm of the Little League World Series appears to be as popular as ever.
Crowds continue to pack the grassy hill overlooking the Lamade Stadium outfield and television viewership is up.
Little League president Stephen Keener is also aware of complaints from those watching from home. Namely, that the event has become too big, or puts children into too many high-pressure situations. To those skeptics, Keener issues an invitation: Come, soak in the atmosphere, and watch the youngsters.
“I’ll tell you, you’ll see the tears on the field after a loss,’’ Keener said from his office overlooking the stadium. “Ten or 15 minutes later, they’re back to being kids, swimming and playing ping-pong and doing the things that kids do.’’
Most of the pint-sized players do appear to be having fun, win or lose, though winning can make for a much better time.
Four teams are left in the 10-day marathon of youth baseball. Yesterday was an off day, with the action picking up again today with a high-stakes doubleheader: Mexico and Taiwan playing for the international championship, followed by Texas and California meeting for the US title. The winners play tomorrow for the World Series crown.
If today’s games are anything like many of the entertaining contests that have been played over the first week, they could draw quite an audience.
ESPN, which owns the broadcast rights, said viewership for its opening weekend coverage was up about 60 percent from last year’s opening weekend. ESPN2 telecasts are up 137 percent.
The increase could be in part due to the tournament not having to compete with the Summer Olympics, as it did last year. Still, viewership is up from 2007, as well.
Keener also theorized the increased attention may be in part due to the economy.
“People are probably at home more than at the beach,’’ he said. “Maybe it’s the economy that has forced people to do something that they might not otherwise do - watching more television.’’
The estimated attendance through 28 games is 299,634, exceeding the total through the same point last year by about 10,000 fans. Admission and parking are free.
Most seats are general admission and don’t require a ticket, including the expansive hill beyond the outfield that offers an inviting venue to spread a blanket and spend a summer afternoon.
Keener doesn’t anticipate any major changes in the future for the World Series, in its 63d year.
“The important thing for us, we want the Little League World Series to reflect as much as possible what Little League is in thousands of communities worldwide,’’ Keener said.
Little League World Series
Where: South Williamsport, Pa.
Who: International final: Reynosa, Mexico vs. Taoyuan, Taiwan, noon; US final: San Antonio vs. Chula Vista, Calif., 3 p.m.
TV: Channel 5