West Side celebrates after beating Galion and winning the Little League state tournament on Saturday, July 27, 2019, at Bevelhymer Park in New Albany. David Jablonski/Staff

West Side’s Coomer on cancellation of Little League World Series: ‘Tough to put into words’ for players

West Side Little League Vice President Ken Coomer is still hoping the District 9 All-Stars can have some semblance of a tournament at some point this year.

Little League International announced Thursday it was canceling the Little League World Series and regional and national championships at all divisions because of safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Little League World Series has been played each year since the first tournament in 1947, and the next iteration was to be the 75th playing of the tournament.

Coomer said the news, although not surprising, was especially disappointing for the 12-year-olds who would have been competing for a chance to make a run to Williamsport for the last time before aging out of Little League. WSLL, a four-time qualifier for the World Series, won its 36th straight District 9 championship last year and claimed its ninth state title in the last 11 years before falling short in the Great Lakes Regional.

»RELATED: West Side rallies to top Galion in state final

“I wasn’t surprised, but you feel sorry for the 12-year-old boys especially because it’s their last year of Little League baseball and not to have the opportunity to compete and have the ultimate dream of trying to go to the Little League World Series, that’s tough to put into words. But with everything going on, we understand and we have to live with it.

“We’re still hoping we might still have a district and state tournament. That hasn’t been determined yet, so there is still hope for something, even if it’s pushed back or done with limitations with no parents or something. We would just like to do something if we can for the 12-year-olds.”

Coomer, who co-coaches that 12-year-old team, had every reason to believe this would be another strong year for the players. Two years ago this group failed to make it out of districts in the 10-and-under age division but bounced back as 11-year-olds to win the District 9 championship last summer.

Some of the players who haven’t aged out but played on the 12-and-under team last year would have been back to make another run this summer.

»PHOTOS: WSLL celebrates 2019 state championship

“I’ve spoken with some of the parents and it’s difficult for the kids,” Coomer said. “They worked hard to get to this point. They’ve grown and gotten better over the last four years. West Side has a good history. Kids come through our program hoping to get on that 12-year-old team hoping to make a run, and we’ve been successful over the years. Not to have that, it’s hard to communicate that.”

West Side Little League is still preparing for a regular season, which for now is set to begin June 1 when the state’s stay-at-home is expected to end. The organization will continue to follow Governor Mike DeWine’s guidelines.

Registration for the spring had already begun back in December and the league had its last sign-up date March 1 before the statewide restrictions were imposed. Teams had already been put together, and fees have already been put into use.

“Because of everything that goes into it with maintenance, registration, treating the fields and things like that – that’s where all the fees come in from the players – we have to treat it like a small business even though we are a non-profit,” Coomer said. “Once everything comes live, we will issue refunds to parents who don’t want their kids to participate, but we’ve already used a lot of the money. It’s all very complicated, but hopefully we can get through all this soon and salvage somewhat of a season.”

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