It was inevitable based on the current sports landscape, but that doesn’t take the sting off the cancelation of the 2020 Little League World Series, which was officially called off on Thursday due to COVID-19 concerns.
The LLWS has been held annually in Williamsport, Pa. since 1947. This is the first year that it has been canceled.
For Honolulu Little League coach Gerald Oda, he sympathizes for the kids who will have one less year of youth baseball, regardless of if it ends in Williamsport or not. Oda, of course, was the coach of the team that won it all in 2018.
“Sad that they won’t have a World Series this year. I feel bad especially for all the 12-year-old kids. This is their last year playing little league,” he told KHON2. “Just very sad for the kids.
“For some of those kids, that was their dream — to at least try to participate in the tournaments. Just not having that opportunity I think really hurts for them. I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to any of those kids yet but I definitely will make time.”
To Oda, participating in little league is one of the most memorable aspects of childhood. He believes it’s a rite of passage for youth athletes.
The boys and girls that won’t get a chance to experience that in 2020 is who Oda hurts for the most.
“This is a good example that age doesn’t matter and everybody is going to be sacrificing something through this,” he said. “Unfortunately for these 12-year-olds, their sacrifice is losing their last year of playing little league. It’s just part of growing up. But the sad about it is we’re seeing our kids grow up a lot faster than needed due to this situation.”
Thursday’s official announcement from Little League International makes Oda appreciate the special summer of 2018 even more. The All-Stars from Honolulu Little League didn’t lose a single game that entire summer, with their journey culminating in a 3-0 win over South Korea in the championship game.
Oda remains in touch with members of that team. The stay at home order has also given him an opportunity to review games from 2018. He otherwise may not have had the time.
“I still keep in touch with some of those players. I never really had an opportunity to watch all the games. Just being home and having all this free time, just seeing those kids on the baseball field, replaying those memories and those games, it’s something special,” he said. “A lot of them have moved on of course, they’re either in eighth grade or are going to be freshman next year in high school. It’s good to see them growing up, they’re all good kids, doing well.
“It was a special moment, special time. What’s more memorable is the fact that I get to see them grow up to be good kids.”
Oda says he has talked to other coaches about holding a summer tournament on Oahu if it becomes safe to do so in the coming months. For now, he encourages everyone to stay strong and stay safe, and looks forward to seeing everyone back on the field when the time comes.
“Our society, our community is going through such a serious situation where everything gets canceled,” he said. “I think going forward, everybody will have a sense of appreciation just for being able to leave the house, to go out, exercise, and just to see our kids play on the baseball field is a tremendous benefit for us. So if there’s one thing positive, I’m sure a lot of people are gonna have a lot more appreciation and gratitude for what we have.”