Director still inspired 27 years after he founded Taylor's World Series
After 27 years of serving as the volunteer director of the Junior League World Series, Greg Bzura says he is more inspired than ever.
Less than a month before his 70th birthday, Bzura is eager to watch the 10 baseball teams of 13- and 14-year-olds from around the globe who visit Taylor’s Heritage Park to play for the world championship.
“Honestly, I can’t wait,” Bzura said.
He won’t have to wait long. Saturday night features the opening ceremonies, including the parade of champions and fireworks, all starting at 9 p.m.
Sunday is Opening Day. The first pitch is scheduled for noon at World Series Field.
Makati, Philippines, the team that traveled the farthest – more than 8,000 miles – will make its debut in the series against the national champions of Puerto Rico.
In all, four games will be played on Sunday. And four games will be played each day through Thursday, drawing crowds to Heritage Park from about 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
On Friday, the top teams in two pools will play for the International and United States championships. The winners play for the world title at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Bzura is confident that this year’s World Series will be as exciting as the past 26. His inspiration comes in many forms:
●Three teams will be playing in Taylor for the first time, showing that the Junior Division of Little League International continues to grow. Besides the Philippines – which won the Asia-Pacific regional championship, the other two new teams come from Kirovograd, Ukraine, and St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Ukrainian team won the championship in Poland in a region that encompasses all of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). St. Thomas won the highly contested Latin America region.
The rest of the teams come from Canada, Puerto Rico and five regions across the United States. To date, teams have come from 27 different states and, now, 18 international areas.
●Bzura believes the expansion into those nations will keep attendance growing at the World Series. He said there are local concentrations of Filipino and Ukrainian people who will visit Taylor regularly to support teen-agers from their homelands.
●For the first time in series history, the championship game will be broadcast live on television – albeit on ESPNU, a cable channel that is generally found in college towns.
For those that don’t get ESPNU on their cable TV, they can always watch the game when it is replayed at 2 p.m. August 29 on ESPN2.
Most, if not all, of the games will be broadcast over the Internet on streaming audio on the city of Taylor and World Series Web site, www.cityoftaylor.com. There are still opportunities for people interested in volunteering to announce a game or two from the press box of World Series Field.
●Volunteers are the life blood of the World Series – and Bzura said he hears every day from people who want to participate. Particularly this year, he said, the host Taylor South Little League has gotten more involved than ever before. Of course, they can always use more help.
“People are doing a lot of things without me even knowing it,” Bzura said.
Thanks to the volunteers, World Series Field is in its best shape in years, Bzura said. Wal-Mart donated funds for a new scoreboard. (A misspelled word in the sign was even corrected prior to the opening ceremonies.)
On Thursday night, the city and Fire Department provided the use of a fire truck with a 100-foot ladder, which allowed volunteer Ray Zewicky to adjust the field lighting.
Soon, Bzura said, series organizers must start a capital improvement program to replace the current lights with a state-of-the-art system that could cost upwards of $100,000.
“I’m going to hope and pray that the inspiration I’m seeing continues in the people that can help us,” he said. “Everything we do in Taylor – the conservatory, the festival, our concerts – is first class. We need some first-class lights now. The ones we have now are old technology sitting on wood, nuts and bolts. A good strong wind can move them. In today’s systems, we can double our lighting with fewer poles.”
●Mostly, Bzura is inspired by interest in the World Series. On Thursday, he received phone calls from Southgate, Riverview, the Virgin Islands and other areas, reminding him that this is a regional event of international scope.
“There is more excitement from around the world that people would imagine,” he said.
On Friday morning, Bzura received a phone call from an 87-year-old Taylor woman who wanted to know when the first game was on Sunday.
“She told me she wouldn’t miss it,” Bzura said. “That may have inspired me the most.”