Philippines, Ukraine, Puerto Rico qualify for 2007 World Series in Taylor

At least two countries will make their debut in the Junior League World Series of baseball in Taylor.

Makati City, Philippines, and Kirovograd, Ukraine, have qualified to play in the 27th annual tournament for the best teams of 13- and 14-year-old baseball players in the world.

They join Guayama, Puerto Rico, in forming three-fifths of the International Pool in the series, which is set for August 12-18 at Heritage Park, 12111 Pardee Road.

Philippines won the Asia-Pacific Region, played July 26-28 in Hagatna, Guam. The Illam Central Little League team defeated the national champions of Guam, 8-4, in a deciding game of a four-team round robin. Makati City’s other wins in the region came over Hong Kong and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Ukraine won the Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) Region in a tournament played July 11-19 in Kutno, Poland. The Kirovograd/Rivne Little League squad emerged from the tourney of 10 national champions, defeating London, England, 3-2, in the championship game.

In pool play, Ukraine defeated Lithuania and Belarus, but suffered two losses to Germany and Italy and finished 2-2 in pool play. As the third seed in the one-loss elimination round, Ukraine defeated Moldova, 7-0, and Italy in a rematch, 8-7, to earn a spot in the EMEA championship game. It is believed to be the first time a third-seeded team came back to win the European regional title.

The Radames Lopez Little League comes to Taylor as the national champion of Puerto Rico. In odd-number years, the Puerto Rican champion receives an automatic berth in the series due to the popularity of Little League baseball in the country. In even-number years, the Mexican national champion plays.

A team from Mexico can still make it to Taylor by winning the Latin American Region. That tournament started Saturday and ends July 28 in Panama City, Panama.

Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico, was runner-up to El Campo, Texas, in the 2006 World Series.

The fifth international team will come from Canada. That nation’s national tournament is set for August 3-10 in Windsor, Ontario.

The other five teams in the World Series will be regional champions from around the United States. Regional tourneys begin as early as July 31 and conclude as late as August 9 in Freehold Township, New Jersey (East); Beaverton, Oregon (West); Grand Junction, Colorado (Southwest); Cartersville, George (South); and Fort Wayne, Indiana (Central).

The yet-to-be-determined Junior League state champion from Michigan will play in Fort Wayne. The team’s first game is 11 a.m. August 4 against the state champion of Iowa.

To date, teams have come to Taylor from 27 different states. The addition of the Philippines and Ukraine will bring the total number of international countries to 17. Representatives of the Philippines and Ukraine will add their flags to the hill of flags in center field of World Series Field.

The World Series originated in Taylor in 1981. That year, the series was won by Boardman, Ohio. Mark “Bo” Pelini, who played on that team, is currently the defensive coordinator for the Louisiana State University football team.

In 1982, a team from Tampa won the series. Current Detroit Tiger Gary Sheffield and Derek Bell were teammates on the Belmont Heights Little League team from Taylor that year.

In 26 years, teams from the United States have won 19 world championships in Taylor. Puerto Rican teams have won five world titles – the last in 1999. One team from Mexico and a team from Panama won the other World Series.

Final plans are being made for the opening ceremonies on Saturday, August 11. The event includes a Parade of Champions, the national anthem of each country and fireworks at dusk.

Special recognition will take place for the Canadian champions, who will play in Taylor for the 20th straight year, and to the champions of Puerto Rico, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their first year in Taylor.

World Series games get under way at noon Sunday, August 12. Four games will be played each day August 12-16, setting the stage for the championship games of the USA and International pools August 17.

The world championship will be decided at 5 p.m. Saturday, August 18. For the seventh straight year, the title game will be videotaped and broadcast by ESPN.

Heritage Park is the only place the Junior League World Series has been played. Greg Bzura, who founded the tournament on behalf of the Taylor South Little League, has served as director every year.

Ticket prices are a modest $4 per day per carload – and $7 per car for the entire series. Both fees include parking.

Sponsorships and donations fund the World Series and a massive volunteer effort makes it happen. To volunteer or become a sponsor, call (734) 287-8836.

A schedule of games, highlights, history and photos of the World Series appear right here on the City of Taylor Web site, www.cityoftaylor.com/worldseries. Inquiries about the World Series also can be directed to (734) 374-1447 or TaylorNews@aol.com.