Together, The American Legion and the Shelby (N.C.) Baseball World Series Committee have inked a five-year contract that will expand the viewership of the American Legion World Series (ALWS) to nearly 80 million viewers.
Starting with the 2014 ALWS, the championship game will be televised live by ESPNU. The last time a Legion World Series championship game was live on TV was 35 years ago in Greenville, Miss.
"The extended contract (with ESPN) to televise the championship game of the World Series is testimony of the perseverance and commitment of all involved to maintain our reputation as one of the most successful and tradition rich amateur baseball programs in the world," said Richard Anderson, chairman of the Legion's National Americanism Commission. "On behalf of the Americanism Commission, it is with deep gratitude that we extend our congratulations to Eddie Holbrook (co-chairman of Shelby's Baseball World Series Committee), the committee, all the volunteers and the city of Shelby for their due diligence and successful achievement of affiliating with ESPN.
"Thank you to all the dedicated volunteers who safeguard and promote the integrity and legend of American Legion Baseball."
Holbrook, with American Legion North Carolina National Executive Committeeman Jerry Hedrick in attendance, made the announcement March 13 during a special event at the LeGrand Center in Shelby.
"This has been a dream that we have had since the beginning," Holbrook told the Shelby Star. "We had no idea that it could be done by year four."
All games leading up to the championship event will still be live streamed on ESPN3. And to accommodate the championship game TV coverage, the ALWS tournament schedule is changing from a double elimination format to pool play.
"ESPNU needs to know the exact time each game will be played. There can't be any ‘what-ifs,'" Holbrook told the Shelby Star. "In double elimination, you have what-ifs with the championship game."
With the pool play format, each team is guaranteed to play up to three games. There will be two pools (A and B) of four teams each; the teams will play each other in their respective pools for the first three days of the ALWS, Aug. 14-17. The semifinals will be Aug. 18, where the winner of Pool A will play the runner-up of Pool B and the winner of Pool B will play the runner-up of Pool A. The two overall winners will play in the ALWS championship game on Aug. 19.
The ALWS championship game TV coverage also allows for several 30-second advertising spots for The American Legion and Shelby.
Events surrounding the ALWS are still in the planning stages. However, it is official that a performance by The Charlie's Daniel Band will be held during the National Commander's Reception on Aug. 12 at the LeGrand Center. The band is known for its song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Another concert is set to take place following the Celebration of Champions dinner at Keeter Stadium on Aug. 13.