World Series is now upon us

Play ball!

And with that short but sweet command, girls from around the world will set forth on a shared quest to claim the title of “world champion.”

I admit it. I’m a sucker for the Senior League World Series held for the past several years at the Pyle Center in Roxana. Granted, it’s an incredibly busy week at the office, as we cover every game for the “Homeplate” publication we do for the tournament, and the metal bleachers at some point become fused to the back of my front, but it’s an event that holds a firm grip on my attention every year.

And it all starts Sunday.

There’s something very “Field of Dreams” about approaching the field every year, as the facility stands nearly alone amongs its rural surroundings. The first thing that grabs my attention as I pull into the parking lot is the number of cars with messages of encouragement to the players splayed across them. People move from the parking lot to the field, gripping seat cushions and cameras, with at least as firm a hold on their smiles as their belongings. It seems that nobody is in a bad mood as they make their way to the games, as optimism and hope springs eternal for each player and parent.

Oh, and they have tremendous hot dogs at the concession stand. I say this from a wealth of experience, as I have not only consumed about 500 of these over the past several years of covering the event, but about a million others in different locales as my diet falls somewhere between gluttony and a complete disregard for the mechanism that keeps my blood pumping and ...

But I digress.

The tournament, of course, is about the girls playing in it, first and foremost. They come from every corner of this nation, from north of us in Canada, from south of us in Latin America, from Europe and from Asia. The European team, in fact, won a qualifying tournament comprised of teams from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. And don’t forget the local favorite, as the squad from Laurel advanced to be the District III participant in this year’s World Series for the fourth consecutive year. Last year, they made it to the finals and the crowds poured in from all around Sussex County.

Is this the year they win the whole thing?

And, make no mistake, this tournament is all about winning for the teams involved. There is an air of enthusiasm from every dugout as teammates frantically cheer each other on and offer words of encouragement, and there is a shared disregard for personal safety as the athletes hurl themselves after looping fly balls and test every muscle in their bodies as they race down the baselines even after the most routine of ground balls. It is electric. It is passionate. And it is some darned good softball to watch.

And, for those of us covering the event, it’s hard not to become attached to certain teams during the tournament. Granted, the District III team is my obvious favorite every year, but I always find a second team that appeals to me each Series. Two years ago, I found myself rooting for the Canadian squad. The team struggled mightily to earn some wins on the field, but there was no roster that tried harder or had a better attitude throughout that Series. Last year, it was the representative from Europe I was pulling for, as they were kids from a military base in Germany, and there was just something about their competitiveness and attitude that called out to me.

I’m guessing by Monday afternoon I’ll know who my personal favorite is this year.

If you haven’t been before, make a point of getting out to the Pyle Center next week. I promise you won’t regret it.

If you’ve been to this event before, you know how fun it is to attend. You have heard the family and friends of the players hang out their emotions for the world on every pitch, seen the little kids running around the facility with shirts pledging their allegiances to certain teams and tried the hot dogs.

I mean, seriously, try those hot dogs.