By Nick Richardson and Nick Fathergill
The 2016 Little League Baseball® World Series Field features 16 teams. Eight teams have arrived from outside of the United States, including four national Little League® champions; and eight teams hailing from five regions across the U.S. Each team, along with their home country and state, have embarked on an amazing journey that has seen them transverse time zones, state lines, country borders and, in some instances, even continents.
Here is a closer look at the teams and flags being showcased this year in Williamsport.
East Seoul Little League from Seoul, South Korea, is the Asia-Pacific Region Champions. No team from South Korea has ever lost a game at the Little League Baseball® World Series, and the team from East Seoul will try to continue that winning tradition. The last time South Korea reached the World Series, a league from the country’s capital city won the championship (2014).
South Korea’s flag represents many of the religious beliefs surrounding the nation. First, the “taeguk” in the middle represents all things and values in the universe, and is associated with Taoist values, according to san-shin.org. The tri-grams surrounding the taeguk are four of the eight tri-grams of the Taoist religion which stand for the principles of reality and the “five elements”, according to Xin Chen in The Illustrated Canon of Chen Family Taijiquan. Many South Koreans hold these beliefs as defining characteristics of the universe.
Australia is the fastest-growing Little League country and continent. The country’s representatives in the 2016 World Series hail from Hills Little League near the capital city of Sydney. The boys from Hills have made the long trip to Williamsport to seek the first championship banner for Australia. Since receiving direct entry into the Little League Baseball World Series beginning in 2012, Australia has expanded its Little League presence. This year, Australia was granted direct entry into the Junior Baseball World Series for the first time.
Australia’s flag features depictions of both tradition and independence. While the flag of the United Kingdom, which used to protectorate of Australia, sits in the top left corner, a seven-pointed star sits below it, representing the Commonwealth Star of the Federation of Australia, according to Hobart Mercury. This freedom to develop independent from outside sources has led to the expansive growth of Little League throughout Australia.
Hastings Community Little League from Vancouver, British Columbia, is competing in the Little League Baseball® World Series after winning the Canada Region Championship. The province of British Columbia has seen a great deal of success in several of the 2016 World Series Tournaments. Canada has qualified a team for the LLB® World Series in Williamsport each year since 1957.
The white and red in the Canadian flag are based off the French royal emblem and Saint George’s Cross, respectively, according to the Department of Canadian Heritage. However, the famous maple leaf that sits in the center is a result of patriotic songs written back in the 19th century, according to Caren Irr in The Suburb of Dissent. As a nation built on European institutions, Canada inherited many sports from overseas. However, baseball developed in Canada independently from Europe, much like the maple leaf logo. Little League blossomed in Canada much the same, with seven talented teams from across the nation coming together to play for their country in the grandest tournament of all.
The 2016 Caribbean Region Champions come from Willemstad, Curacao in the Netherland Antilles. The team from Pariba Little League will be the 12th team from Curacao to compete in the Little League Baseball® World Series, and will attempt to become just the second to emerge victorious; the first also came from Willemstad, winning the 2004 World Series.
The people of Curacao come from five continents. To represent this great diversity, the flag of Curacao has two five-pointed stars – one point for each continent – over a field of blue and yellow to represent the sea and the sun that bathes the island, according to World Atlas. Just as people from across the world came to populate Curacao, people from across the country came together as Pariba Little League won the Caribbean regional title. The theme of joining together vaulted Pariba into the LLBWS, just as it helped the previous contenders from the island nation.
The Europe-Africa Region has seen a diverse group of champions over the years, and in 2016 Emilia Little League from Italy has made the trip to Williamsport. Emilia Little League, which also participated in the 2008 World Series, represents just the third team from Italy to qualify for the Little League Baseball® World Series.
Italy’s standard flag, consisting of bars of green, white, and red, has two major interpretations. Some view the green as the country’s hills, the white as the snow-capped Alps, and the red as blood spilt while gaining independence. However, Glosue Carducci gave a speech in which he claimed the colors represented the three theological virtues – hope, faith, and clarity – according to Comitato Guglielmo Marconi International. A deeply religious nation, Italy supports many of its institutions with nearly religious fervor, such as the national soccer team. As such, a nation came together to support Emilia Little League in the LLBWS.
The Japan Region is the reigning Little League Baseball® World Series Champion, a title they have claimed in four of the past six years. This year, Chofu Little League from Tokyo will look to carry on Japan’s winning tradition as it plays for the country’s 11th LLB® World Series championship banner.
The Japanese flag serves as an important symbol to the nation. Many believe the red circle in the middle is a depiction of the sun goddess Amaterasu, from whom the Japanese royal family claims to have descended, giving them right to rule, according to Maps of World. Additionally, the nickname “Land of the Rising Sun” refers to Japan’s eastern location to the rest of Asia. Japan’s reliance on past institutions is evident in its love for baseball, which has been popular in the country for generations, and in the contingent of fans coming to Central Pennsylvania to watch Chofu Little League in the LLBWS.
Aguadulce Cabezera Little League from Aguadulce, Panama is representing the Latin America Region Championship, at the 2016 Little League Baseball® World Series. This will be the ninth time Panama has sent a team to Williamsport, with Aguadulce being represented in three of the past five years.
Panama’s flag perfectly represents Little League® Latin American Region. The two stars recognize the two political parties, while the white boxes they sit in represent the peace they work in, according to Flags of the World. In the fiercely competitive baseball environment of Latin America, themes of grace and respecting your competition still won out.
For the 30th time, Mexico will be represented at the Little League Baseball® World Series, and for the first time, the San Nicolas Little League is the country’s national champion of Little League Baseball. Hailing from Nuevo Leon, San Nicolas Little League will look to become the first Mexico National Champion since 1997, to take home the championship banner.
Mexico’s flag design is rooted in the deep history of the nation. An ancient legend said the Aztecs should create their city where they saw an eagle devour a serpent: that place is now Mexico City, and the eagle eating the serpent is the coat of arms, according to Smithsonian Natural Museum of American History. The stripes of green, white, and red symbolize the independence movement, the Catholic faith, and the blood of Spaniard heroes, according to the Smithsonian. Another deeply rooted tradition in Mexico is baseball, a sport often played in the streets for amusement. Now, San Nicolas Little League has brought that passion to Williamsport as Mexico Region Champion.
In unprecedented fashion, Bowling Green (Ky.) Eastern Little League clinched its spot in the 2016 Little League Baseball® World Series. Two days of rain prompted Little League’s International Tournament Committee to relocate the Great Lakes Region Championship to Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pa. Bowling Green Eastern Little League has made its second consecutive appearance in Williamsport, after defeating Essexville-Hampton Little League from Michigan. It marks the ninth team a team from the bluegrass State has reached the LLB® World Series.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky’s flag features the state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” Kentucky’s representative to the Little League Baseball World Series certainly displayed this mantra in its qualifying tournament.
Maine-Endwell Little League is making its first-ever appearance in the Little League Baseball® World Series in 2016. Hailing from Endwell, N.Y., Maine-Endwell Little League won the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship to punch its ticket to Williamsport. They will try to become the first New York team to win the World Series tournament since 1964.
In New York History, Volume XXXI, Joseph Gavit interprets the coat of arms of New York as a stand against tyranny. While Liberty stomps on the English crown on the left, Justice readies her sword on the right. As a member of the 13 original colonies, New York was integral in casting off the English monarchy. This spirit of integrity and hard work fueled New York’s champion, Maine-Endwell Little League, to its first LLBWS.
Johnston (Iowa) Little League emerged as the Midwest Region Champions and is representing its region at the 2016 Little League Baseball® World Series. This year will be the first time Johnston Little League won its way to Williamsport. The state of Iowa has been represented at the Little League World Series 12 other times, but has never reached the World Championship Game.
As a former member of the French Louisiana Territory, Iowa’s state flag features three stripes – blue, white and red. This fierce pride in its heritage makes Iowa unique, whereas many other states prefer to develop new crests and colors. As Iowa’s representative to the LLBWS, Johnston Little League is proud of its origin, just as the first people who settled in the Midwest region.
The team from Warwick (R.I.) North Little League, claimed the New England Region title to collect a spot in the 2016 Little League Baseball® World Series. While this is Warwick North Little League’s first time in Williamsport, this is the third consecutive year that Rhode Island has been represented at the World Series, and the fourth time in the last six years.
Hebrews, Verse 6:18-19, reads, “hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” This quotation inspires the design of the Rhode Island state flag, according to Howard Chapin, former librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society. Mr. Chapin said the earliest colonists of Rhode Island were Christians fleeing religious persecution in Massachusetts. Hope gave the earliest inhabitants of the state something to believe in – and hope gave Warwick North Little League the strength to win the New England Region, featuring teams from much larger and more populated states.
Traveling across the country from Oregon, Bend North Little League is competing in the Little League Baseball® World Series as the Northwest Region Champions. This year will mark the league’s first appearance in Williamsport. This is also be the second consecutive year that Oregon has sent a team to the World Series.
Oregon is the only state in the United States with a design on both sides. While the front features a shield surrounded by 33 stars, according to Oregon Blue Book – to represent Oregon as the 33rd state – the back contains a gold beaver, the state animal. On the shield, a rising sun presides over the extensive resources and natural treasures Oregon has to offer, according to netstate.com. The traditions of outdoor labor and the beauty of nature have had a major impact on the development of Little League baseball in Oregon, leading to Bend North Little League’s inclusion in the LLBWS.
This year’s Southeast Region Champions come from Goodlettsville Baseball Little League (GBLL) in Goodlettsville, Tenn. This will be the second time Goodlettsville Little League has made it to the Little League Baseball® World Series, with the previous time coming in 2012. That year, GBLL won the United States Championship. Tennessee has now sent a team to Williamsport in four of the last five years.
Three sections of Tennessee – East, Middle, and West – combine to form one state, according to the Tennessee Military Department. In the state flag, this is pictured using a circle containing three white stars. Much is the same with baseball fans in Tennessee. While Goodlettsville encompasses a rather small portion of the sizable state, residents statewide came together to encourage their home team.
McAllister Park American Little League from San Antonio, Texas, is the 2016 Southwest Region Champions, and carries that title into the Little League Baseball® World Series. McAllister Park previously sent teams to Williamsport in 2009 and 2012, and is hoping the third time will be the charm when it comes to winning the championship.
The Texas Lone Star Flag was adopted most recently in 1933, according to the Handbook of Texas. The state’s long history of occupation by Mexico led to the development of the Texas flag. Similar to California, the star is meant to stand as a sign of solidarity, while the State of Texas Government Code says the blue, white and red stand for loyalty, purity, and bravery, respectively. McAllister Park American Little League displayed these qualities to both its state and fans by avenging an earlier loss to defeat Eastdale Little League of New Mexico, 13-3 in the Southwest regional championship game.
As the West Region Champions, Park View Little League of Chula Vista, Calif., has history at the Little League Baseball® World Series. Park View Little League was the 2009 Little League Baseball World Series Champions, while Eastlake Little League from Chula Vista were the runners-up in the 2013 tournament. This year’s team will try to match those lofty heights.
The iconic Bear Flag of California is based off flags created after California declared independence from Mexico in the 19th century. The bear is meant to be a symbol of “strength and unyielding resistance,” according to the California State Military Museum.