Softball World Series swinging onto local fields
Athletes from all over the world will converge on Sussex County this week for an event of major proportions. The Senior League Softball World Series brings 10 teams — more than 100 girls ages 13 to 16, their coaches and supporters — to Roxana to contend for the international championship.
Held at the Lower Sussex Little League Complex on Route 20 in Roxana, known locally as the Pyle Center, the series will bring together the best of the best from Sunday, Aug. 5, to Saturday, Aug. 11.
Because Delaware’s District 3 hosts the World Series, the district gets to send one of its own teams straight to the championship. And in competition leading up to the 2012 series, Woodbridge twice defeated the 2011 world champions from Laurel to earn the coveted host-team spot for the first time.
Indiana District 11, from South Bend, Ind., hosted the Central region and beat Illinois 6-4 to earn their sixth straight ticket to the World Series. The girls from Vidalia, La., twice defeated Texas East, 6-2, 10-7, to represent the Southwest region.
Girls from Northwest/Mile High Little League in Butte, Mo., squeezed past Southern California 5-4 and Northern California 10-9 to represent the West.
Canada will send District 5 winners from Windsor, Ontario. The Puerto Rican team returns to the series from Latin America, while Italy is the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) champion, and the Asia-Pacific team is from Guam.
Regional champions from the East and Southeast were set to be determined after the Coastal Point’s press deadline mid-week but will be in the area in time for competition to begin on Sunday, Aug. 5.
The teams will meet at opening ceremonies on Sunday, with video journalist Cleo Greene acting as co-mistress of ceremonies. Two games will be played simultaneously each day of the tournament, one at each of the Bruce E. Layton and Connie Mack fields. The games will begin at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and at 10 a.m. and noon on Tuesday.
“The competition level is high. It’s a good to watch that level of softball,” said Martin Donovan, World Series director. “Once you come out and see it, you’ll be back.”
Donovan said people who aren’t even involved with Little League plan their vacations to Delaware around the World Series, where admission is free for spectators. People can also watch the entire tournament from home. All games can be watched live for $9.99 at www.broadcastsport.net/ZipPages/ZipCode-LittleLeague-PP.aspx, or for $4.99 afterward.
ESPN will broadcast the championship game in high-definition television on Saturday, Aug. 11, at noon.
“It’s an international event, and I think people forget that,” said Donovan.
Teams will practice in the morning and play at night, but the afternoons are ripe for adventure for the players. With their choice of beach, boardwalk and more — players from Guam previously visited a poultry farm, something they’d never seen before — the girls have free time to enjoy Delaware culture. Each team gets one day off to enjoy themselves. In the past, Montana players who had never seen the ocean got a taste of the Atlantic, while Arizonians — so used to dry, warm weather — were dealing with humidity for the first time.
The girls — all of whom are staying at a Seaford hotel — interact with each other, and with local students, including Pat Knight tournament players on nearby fields, since their games often coincide with the World Series.
“It’s a true learning experience for the girls. We try to make it something they will never forget,” Donovan said.
Sussex County as a whole will feel the impact of hosting the World Series. While the county council makes a large donation to host the event, Donovan said the financial benefit is significant: at least $1.2 million enters the local economy — a figure Donovan said he expects to have increased since last count.
However, it takes an entire county to host the series, and the teams are guests in District 3’s home. From the moment teams step off the plane until they leave, District 3 provides meals, transportation and entertainment. Donovan estimated that $150,000 is spent on World Series, but District 3 receives no direct compensation for hosting, only some infrastructure assistance. The funding to run the series comes from donations and financial aid.
From prepping the fields to hiring interpreters, mid-week Sussex County was almost ready for the games to begin. Local fire companies will donate ambulances and on-site medical support, while Beebe Medical Center sends trainers, and representatives nearby softball districts will man the concession stands.
“We don’t make any money off of it,” emphasized Donovan.
“For Lower Sussex [Little League], it’s certainly not a financial benefit, but we all agreed it’s a huge benefit for our little community,” said Tracy Littleton, league president.