It has been almost fifty years since a Canadian team has reached the final at the Little League World Series.
Beyond the 1965 team from Stoney Creek, Ont., there have been a few highlights, including two third-place finishes in the ’90s. But success in Williamsport, Pa., against the world’s best has been elusive.
“For our teams, winning the Canadian Championship is a very big deal,” said Joe Shea, the regional director for Little League Canada.
“They know that in Williamsport, they are competing with teams from countries with longer histories of baseball programs – Latin America, Japan, Taiwan. We have been very competitive. But the results don’t really matter, it’s the experience of seeing and playing on that field. They don’t expect to win but they have a great time, meet new people and that’s really the big thing for Canada.”
Shea knows what he is talking about. He has been in the game for more than 50 years and has attended every Little League World Series since 1976.
The team from White Rock, B.C., wants to change the Canadian narrative.
‘We want to do our best’
The team zipped through the preliminary rounds at the Canadian championships in Medicine Hat, undefeated. White Rock booked its ticket to Williamsport with a 12-5 win over the team from Quebec on Saturday afternoon.
“We are not going down there to go 0-3,” White Rock coach Keith Fluet said. “We want to do our best to get to the semifinals, to get to the finals.”
The coaches from White Rock know they face an uphill battle.
“From what I have seen over the past few years, it seems like most teams down there have five or six No. 1 starters that can come in and throw high 60s, mid 70s,” Fluet said. “You have to be able to swing the bats with guys throwing that hard.”
“You look at the top U.S. and international teams and they’ve got 13 very strong players,” White Rock head coach Ryan Hefflick adds.
“There is very little drop off at end. And even though we’ve got skilled players deep in our lineup, the reality is it’s not the same size and strength as some of those teams.”
A number of factors typically work against Canada. Shea says the best teams at the World Series have been working towards the event for years and have players focused solely on baseball all year.
“In Taiwan for example, they have a much longer season, the…