Two Significant Changes
The year 2001 marked two other significant changes in the World Series. For the first time, the championship game was taped for broadcast on ESPN2. In addition, teams were aligned in two pools: one for the four United States teams; the other for the International teams. The pools ensured only one game taking place for the championship.
The tragic events of September 11, 2001, led to memorable opening ceremonies prior to the start of the 2002 World Series. The ceremony paid tribute to local heroes, including Taylor police officers and firefighters. Taylor public safety officials continue to take part in opening ceremonies to this day.
The year 2002 marked the addition of a fifth region in the United States. Due to the popularity of baseball in the southwestern section of the United States, Little League International formed the Southwest Region. In Taylor, the Southwest team competed against teams from the West, South, Midwest (now called Central) and East regions for the USA championship and a spot in the World Series finals. Frequent series participant Lake Charles, Louisiana, was back again, but as the representative of the USA Southwest Region, instead of the usual USA South Region. The expansion caused Junior League World Series organizers to start the tournament a day earlier than usual to accommodate the addition of extra games. The 2002 World Series started on a Sunday rather than the usual Monday.
That same year, a Central American team – David, Chiriquí, Panama – played in the World Series for the first time. Panama fell short in a thrilling extra-inning finale to Cartersville, Georgia. It was the first time a team from Georgia won the world championship.