As if hosting one World Series wasn’t enough, Sussex County will get a double dose of championship softball next year. Little League International will be relocating the annual Big League Softball World Series tournament to Lower Sussex Little League Complex at the Pyle Center in Roxana in August, where the Senior League World Series is held.
“For the past 10 years, Lower Sussex has shown to be a wonderful host for the Senior League tournament,” said Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive of Little League Baseball and Softball, in a written statement. “To move a second World Series to Sussex County made the best sense for our organization and the Big League Softball World Series. We are comfortable and confident that the local tournament committee will transition well into operating concurrent tournaments.”
Truly international events, the two simultaneous series will now bring 20 teams from around the world, now featuring players age 13 to 18. This year, the hosts are seeking more community support than ever, now that they’re responsible for feeding, housing and transporting 300 people, including players, coaches and chaperones. Players will stay in a Georgetown housing complex instead of hotels.
“Running the tournament is easy. It’s the coordination that is the challenge,” quipped Martin Donovan, local director of the Senior League Softball World Series. “This is a great honor for us, and we look forward to providing the Big League players with a great experience.”
Donavan said the local 30-member board is incredibly excited for the challenge, but understandably a little nervous, just like when the Senior League series first came to Delaware.
Along with the added prestige and pressure of hosting two series, more games should be televised this year. In the past, ESPN did a live broadcast the Senior League championship game, but Donovan said that six games, including the semifinals and two championships, will be televised in 2013.
Locals and visitors are being encouraged to go see the high level of softball skills displayed in person. With the second set of games, play will begin earlier in the day and take place on three fields.
“Come out and watch it,” said Donovan. “One of the reasons we do it is to give back to the community, [for them] to see some softball.”
Admission to Roxana’s World Series has always been free to the public. Volunteers help make that possible. From bus drivers and interpreters to security and concession sales, Lower Sussex needs plenty of behind-the-scenes people.
“It takes more people. We would love to have volunteers. They don’t have to be Little League people,” said Donovan.
The double tournament also allows more local athletes to play. Normally, teams must rise through the ranks to be regional champions before they will head to the series, but in hosting the series, District 3 of Sussex County sends one team straight to the series.
While it’s a shortcut to the international championship event, local teams have performed well in the Senior League series. Laurel won in 2011, and Woodbridge was runner-up last August. Now, two local teams will represent Sussex County, one in each of the series.
Previously, Vanderberg Park in Kalamazoo, Mich., hosted the Big League series for 19 seasons. The 2012 Big League champions were Philippines District 1, from Manila. Internationally, 425 Senior League teams and 59 Big League teams were registered in 2012.
“Hosting two World Series at the same time means we are doubling up on everything,” Donovan said. “When the idea of hosting both World Series was first proposed, people thought I was crazy. But, after considering what it would take and what it would mean to our area, it was an easy decision.”
The Senior League and Big League Softball World Series will be played in Roxana, Aug. 4-10, 2013.