Starting in August, Delaware will be home to not one, but two World Series. That’s a big deal for a little state, said Gov. Jack Markell and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) in a Jan. 7 press conference at the Lower Sussex Little League complex in Roxana.
Members of the Sussex County Council and Delaware general assembly gathered to celebrate the recent announcement that Roxana will host, not only the Senior League World Series, but also the Big League Softball World Series, simultaneously, from Aug. 4 through Aug. 10.
Markell joked that, despite years of youth baseball, this is the closest he’s ever been to a World Series.
“I had so much fun. When I look back on the happiest days of my childhood, it was playing baseball,” said Markell.
This year, Roxana will be in the minds of all Senior League (13-16) and Big League (14-18) players around the world. In the end, 10 teams from each league will have a showdown in Delaware.
“There’s 7,000 kids trying to come to Sussex County,” said Martin Donovan, director for Senior League Softball World Series.
The dual World Series’ economic impact on the area is expected to be around $2.5 million — an “outstanding” impact, according to Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office. That includes restaurants, recreation, hotels, television coverage and much more.
Carper emphasized the importance of such tournaments to the local economy.
“Part of it is just to make sure people know [people are] welcome, that you want them to be here, that you’re welcoming … That’s a lot of what we do here in Sussex County,” said Carper. “And I just want to say to Martin, to everybody that’s a part to this: … You’re doing a great thing for creating that nurturing environment.”
Hosting the tournaments will be a countywide effort. Volunteers are already calling, and all nine local leagues will participate in some way.
“I’ve got people calling to volunteer who are not Little League people, and I’m excited about that,” Donovan said. “We’ll take anybody and everybody.”
“When you have a community coming together, as we did, to make this happen, that is a really significant opportunity for Delaware,” said Markell. “And I know, working together, those girls and us all — we’re just going to knock it out of the park.”
Markell expressed pride in the people who make Little League possible, not for the monetary benefit, but for the kids.
“They believe in these kids. They know that, by providing these kids with these opportunities, these kids will grow into stronger, more confident adults, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Markell. “You’ll find a lot of great coaches don’t only know a lot about baseball, they know a lot about life. And I think, when you have kids who have the opportunity to be associated with adults who take that kind of interested in them, the character-development that represents is just huge.”
The Senior League series has been played on two fields, with games twice daily. With the Big League, a third field and third time slot will be added.
ESPN is also expanding its coverage. Instead of just one championship broadcast, the sports network will present four semifinals and two championships.
Now hosting twice the number of games and people, Lower Sussex Little League is looking to add more bleachers and update the third field. The board will brainstorm ways to “dress the place up a little bit” in coming years, especially with increased television coverage, said Tracy Littleton, president of LSLL.
The LSLL Pat Knight Tournament for ages 9 to 10 will also continue to run simultaneously to the World Series.
“The journey is just beginning,” said Donovan.