Junior League World Series starts this weekend

All-star baseball players from around the world will converge on Taylor this weekend for the start of the 27th annual Junior League World Series at Heritage Park.

Opening ceremonies – including fireworks – are set for 9 p.m. Saturday. Games get under way at noon Sunday and continue through Aug. 18, when the 2007 world champion will be crowned.

Teams of 13- and 14-year-old all-stars begin arriving Friday afternoon and will participate in the parade of champions during opening ceremonies, which are open to the public at no charge.

World Series Director Greg Bzura said he hopes baseball fans from throughout the Downriver area will come out to the ballpark for opening ceremonies and to show support for the visiting players during games all week long.

“These players are champions already,” Bzura said. “Each team has to win a regional or national championship just to qualify for the World Series. The teams from the United States had to beat other state champions. The international teams had to defeat teams from their own countries and other national champions. It should be another outstanding week in Taylor.”

There are eight World Series under the umbrella of Little League International. The most famous series is for 12-year-old baseball players and is held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The Junior League World Series in Taylor is the “big brother” of the Little League event. In fact, some of the players in Taylor may have played in Williamsport.

Teams are divided into two pools: USA and International. Four games are held Sunday through Thursday. The top two teams in each pool play each other for the pool championship next Friday.

The world championship game is set for 5 p.m. Aug. 18. That game will be videotaped by ESPN for future broadcast.

Eight of the 10 teams have qualified to date. International teams that have qualified include:

-The Illam Central Little League from Makati City (Manilla), Philippines (Asia-Pacific region champion)

-The Radames Lopez Little League from Guayama, Puerto Rico (national champion)

-The Kirovograd/Rivne Little League from the Ukraine (Europe/Middle East/Africa region champion)

-The Elrod Hendricks West Little League from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (Latin America champion).

The teams from the Philippines, Ukraine and Virgin Islands will be making their first appearance in Taylor.

The fifth international team will be the national champion of Canada. The national tournament concludes Friday in Windsor, Ontario.

The other five teams will represent regions of the United States. Four of the five have qualified:

-The Anderson Area YMCA American/National Little League team from Anderson, South Carolina, won the Southern regional tournament in Cartersville, Georgia.

-The Del Mar Little League from Laredo, Texas, won the Southwestern regional tournament in Grand Junction, Colorado. Laredo is the West Texas champion. Last year, the East Texas champion from El Campo, Texas, won the world championship.

-The Middletown Little League in Middletown, New Jersey, won the East regional tournament held in nearby Freehold Township, N.J. Middletown was the host team, defeating the Pennsylvania state champions in the finals.

-Pearl City, Hawaii, returns as the West region champion for the fourth straight year. Pearl City defeated Beaverton, Oregon, 2-1, in a 10-inning finale in Beaverton.

Play is scheduled to conclude today in the Central region in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Michigan state champions from Midland have qualified for the semifinals in Indiana. Team Michigan faces the Indiana state champions from Elkhart at 3:30 p.m. today. Also in the running are North Canton, Ohio, and Glendale, Wisconsin. The regional championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Taylor’s Heritage Park is located at 12111 Pardee Road between Goddard and Northline roads. Admission to the games is $4 per day per carload – or $7 for the entire week. Both prices include parking.

For more information on the tournament visit the World Series Web site: www.cityoftaylor.com/worldseries.