After the crowds leave the ballpark and ESPN sends the lights and cameras back up to Bristol; after the celebration dwindles and the teams head back home; and after the popcorn is swept up from the Lower Sussex “Walk of Fame,” Delaware District III Director Martin Donovan starts taking a look at the numbers.
“Economic development for the county and the state was huge,” Donovan noted, after estimating that District III spent more than $200,000 locally just in food, housing and transportation for the teams alone as host of the Big League and Senior League Softball World Series, held in Roxana during the first week of August. “I think that one of the things that people don’t realize is it’s a county-wide event, as far as people spending money.”
This year’s Big League Softball World Series featured two teams from Delaware playing in the championship game, with Milford representing USA East and Laurel getting a bid as the District III host team.
“The game itself, up until the end I think everybody was excited,” Donovan said of Milford’s 1-0 extra-innings championship victory. “It was a great game. I think it proved nationwide that softball in Delaware is alive and well.”
After last year’s Big League Softball World Series championship, which was won also won by a Delaware team, ranked second-highest in television ratings for any ESPN-aired Little League Softball World Series event, the network expanded this year to cover both the Big League and Senior League semi-finals, as well.
While Donovan has not yet heard back about this year’s ratings, he thinks the expanded coverage could be the beginning of a trend that could one day include televised pool games, as well.
“You should still see six games, and down the road I think we might see more,” he said of the ESPN coverage. “We’re following a trend and, of course, everything is geared toward the rating.
“Another unique thing is we’re starting to see the same producers and directors coming back from ESPN, so everybody’s on a first-name basis now. I think they enjoy it.”
After last year’s ratings, in which the Senior League championship also ranked highly, at third, Easton Sports took notice and decided to donate nine bats for each team in this year’s World Series. Donovan also noted that various local businesses were able to display ads on national television, placed along the Bruce Layton Field fence.
While this was only the second year for District III hosting both the Big and Senior League Softball World Series together, it was also only the second year that Lower Sussex Little League ran the concession stand. Donovan noted that, for the most part, that work went well, but volunteers are always needed — estimating that, including the concession stand, nearly 100 volunteers are needed to run each night at the ballpark.
“Basically, everything generated goes into the World Series funds,” he explained of the concession stand revenue. “I think it went fairly well. Not counting the concession stand, it takes anywhere from 50 to 70 people to run every night at the ball park. Between the two, you’re talking 100. The future of any event is new [volunteers]. We need more volunteers. We need younger volunteers.”
Donovan went on to emphasize that those volunteers don’t necessarily need to be affiliated with the Little League or even be local, citing several situations in which volunteers come from beyond the community to lend a hand. Not only that — but fans are coming from all over each year, as well, and, in some cases, even scheduling their vacations around the event.
“It’s the perfect vacation, if you think about it,” Donovan said. “They can sit around and enjoy the beach and then watch the games at night.”
After what is now 11 successful seasons, one thing is for sure — District III won’t be giving up hosting either series any time soon.
“We’ve had 11 years of doing a pretty good job of running [it],” Donovan said, to put it into perspective. “I think Williamsport is happy with what we’re doing.”