For most people, the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. – aka "The Road to Williamsport"–represents the ultimate climax of the Little League season. But the "Road to all-stars," where millions of kids and their families participate annually in postseason torunaments, can be just as important and exciting as the "Road to Williamsport."
Unfortunately many parents find themselves unprepared for the confusion and scheduling issues that can accompany Little League Baseball postseason play. It's the intention of this article to help guide parents through the process to ensure everybody has a great all-star baseball experience.
The Planning Stages
While Little League seasons take shape throughout the world, wheels are already turning as Little League Boards plan the full season, including all-star teams and postseason play. Most parents and players are fixated on things like: when and how do I register; what does "league age as of April 30 mean" (age of your child as of April 30 for the upcoming season); in what Little League boundary do I live (which determines the Little League in which you must sign up); in what division will my child play; who's going to be on my team; what team am I going to be on; who's the manager; when do practices start; how do I volunteer to coach or manage; when do games begin; when will the schedule be posted; on what days will practices be held; on what days will games be played and at what fields?
Then, after questions begin to get answered, other questions pop up, like what color pants will our team select, what equipment should I buy or when's picture day? All are valid questions as the excitement builds for the start of the upcoming season and eager Little League families scramble for answers. At this point no one is thinking about the end of the season or what might be in store should their child happen to be selected for an all-star team.
Before families know it, options for postseason play, including all-stars are being presented to them. At this point many families are caught off-guard and are saying to themselves, "Oh no. I've already given work my vacation schedule and we didn't know Johnny would make all-stars, so how are we going to tell our in-laws that we have to bail on the plans we've been making for the past six months...."
The Road to Williamsport (Explained)
Since Little League is played in many countries throughout the world, seasons are often defined by climate and a host of other factors. In some cold weather climates, the all-star season happens during the middle of a season and in warm weather climates it might typically happen at the end of the season. In Southern California, some Little Leagues start practicing at the end of January, with games beginning in February, while other regions are still under a deep freeze. Be sure to inquire how your league's all-star season unfolds.
Regardless, all leagues eventually funnel into the postseason experience which is defined as the "Road to Williamsport, where a championship team is eventually crowned sometime in August." All-star teams start by playing in their District, then winners progress to Sectional Championships, then on to the Division Championships and then on to Regional Championships, where the winners of the Regional Championship have earn the right to go to Williamsport.
In contrast, the "Road to all-stars" actually begins when the season starts. Throughout the season, players start defining themselves through their performance, attitude and leadership qualities as potential all-star candidates. Players are selected to teams according to the criteria approved by each league's Board. I would suggest learning how your league determines its all-star players. Some leagues let the kids select their peers (which in my experience have proved to be incredibly accurate), others let the managers and coaches select the players and some use a combination thereof.