From Kutno to Williamsport

As a new fund-raising plan is announced to raise $4 million to build the Little League Baseball Leadership Training Center in Kutno, the first outside the USA, we review the recent Little League World Series.

Each spring millions ofyoungsters begin their annual journey on the road to Williamsport with dreams of playing in the Little League World Series. In villages and towns on every continent except Antarctica, boys and girls aged ten to twelve take to ball fields in the hope ofqualifying for this mostprestigious tournament of all.

Of the thousands of Little League teams all over the world, only eight get the chance to compete. But every one of them has an equal opportunity to take that trip to Williamsport and enjoy themselves doing so. One piece of good news is that beginning in 2001, the World Series will be expanded to include sixteen teams. This will enable twice the number of youngsters to play in the finals.

There's an American saying that" getting there is half the fun" . This is how a team gets to the World Series. Training begins in the spring. In addition to learning skills such as throwing, catching and hitting, the children learn the rules and regulations of the game as well as fair play and goodsportsmanship.

Inter-league play begins in April and continues through June at which time the best players areselected. Parents and volunteers as well as players and coaches decide who should represent their particular league in regional tournament play.

In America there are four regional tournaments: Central, South, East and West with the winners in each tournamentadvancing to theplayoffs in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, which were held this year on August 22nd through 28th.

Like their counterparts in America our Polish Little Leaguers play inter-league games and take part in various tournaments throughout April, May and June to practice their skills. In Poland there are just over fifty communities registered with Little League so, unlike theirpeers across the Atlantic who have thousands of leagues and must play in regional tournaments, all Poland's Little Leaguers meet in a national tournament held in July todetermine the Polish Little League Champion. This year's tournament was held in Kutno with thehost team winning and representing Poland in the European Regional Tournament.

The first $1,000,000 for the new Kutno Center

For the fourth year running the European Championships were also played in Kutno, which is the European Little League Headquarters. The Polish team competed against visiting teams from Austria, Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the Ukraine. Poland finished a strong second in its group but was prevented from advancing to the finals due to a defeat by an even stronger Italian team in front of a full stadium of over 2,000 spectators. The eventual winner was Germany who went on to represent Europe in the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

Joining the USA's four regional winners (US East - Tom's River, New Jersey; US South - Phenix City, Alabama; US West - Boise, Idaho; US Central - Brownsburg, Indiana) and the European champions (Ramstein, Germany) for the playoffs were the Latin American champions (Yabucoa, Puerto Rico), Far East champions (Osaka, Japan) and the Canadian champions (Victoria, British Columbia).

Over 40,000 fans packed Lamade Stadium in Williamsport on Saturday, August 28th, to watch the World Series Championship game between Phenix City, Alabama and Osaka, Japan. Japan won a great victory and we take this opportunity to congratulate them, along with all the millions of Little Leaguers who took the road to Williamsport.

William Piszek & Staƛ Wnukowski