Layton a star, right along with others


Joy can be found in so many things, and in just as many individual interpretations.

We can find it in the simplicity of an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, or a person might find it while listening to a song in his or her car — as memories transport the individual to a time or place that will always remain sacred internally. My father finds joy in sitting down once a week in the fall to light up a cigar and watch Penn State play football, my grandfather lights up every day when he puts on his Chicago Cubs hat and Susan Lyons finds it when I accidentally walk into walls or trip over chairs in the office when I’m tired on deadline.

We search for it when we’re down, we embrace it when it’s in our grasp and we never really take pure joy for granted the way we might sometimes do so with love or respect for another human being. It is pleasure, plain and simple.

I found joy once again this year with the Senior League Softball World Series in Roxana.

It sounds kind of silly for an adult to say, doesn’t it? I mean, there are so many other ways for a person to find joy this time of the year when one lives at the beach. Let me explain.

I get ramped up for the event every year just by talking to Bruce Layton in the months leading up to the tournament. For those of you who don’t know, Layton is the president of the Lower Sussex Little League, and one of the main organizers of this event. Part delegator, part hands-on volunteer and part Harry Houdini, Layton somehow manages to stay on top of the happenings and logistics of the event each year, despite logging more hours of volunteer work than Mel Gibson is soon to receive.

In short, he’s my hero.

Part of the fun in talking to Layton in those months before the tournament is hearing how much is going on in order to organize the thing. He constantly gushes about the amount of effort put in by District III and local volunteers, and deflects all praise to Martin Donovan, the administrator for the district and director of the World Series, and various members of the Lower Sussex Little League Board of Directors. Tell Layton that you’re amazed with how much he does every year while still running his mortgage business, governing the league and enjoying every moment of time with his wife and family that he can scrape together, and you’re more than likely going to hear, “Well, it’s tough. But without the efforts of Josh Freeman, this thing would never come even close to getting off the ground.”

And, he’s right in every one of those statements. Donovan is the director of the district and the event, and spends more time on the phone than a teenager with a new crush. The volunteers from the league and community are both relentless in their efforts and sincere in their hopes. And, well, without Josh Freeman’s donations to the event — and throughout the entire community, for that matter — there would be no Senior League Softball World Series in Roxana every year. That’s a fact.

But Layton is the one who gets me excited about this thing every year. One lunch with him and I’m ready to knock on doors, climb mountain tops with a bullhorn (well, the top of the Sussex County land fill would probably be our highest point) and write songs about the glory of the event.

See, Layton loves this thing. He’s always had a love affair with helping youth sports in the community, and I have a theory that Layton sees this event as bringing more attention to the little Field of Dreams gracing Roxana, the community in general and the talents and skills of young people playing their respective sports at the highest level. To Layton, this event could mean as much to this area down the road as the ‘96 Olympics meant to Atlanta or the Great Hermaphrodite Dwarf Tossing Exposition of 2004 meant to ... fine, I made up that last one. But you get the point.

And I think he’s right. All eyes in the softball community are currently on us, and here’s guessing this community doesn’t disappoint.

By the time opening ceremonies began last Sunday, and I found myself talking with a noticably calmed Layton, I was fully in the spirit of the games. When I realized I was giggling with the rest of the fans when a game Monday night was halted because a player was rumored to have swallowed a bug, I was addicted. When I saw a girl dive to make a catch in short rightfield, stand and zip a throw to the bag to nail down a runner, I was ... Well, I had found joy.

Thanks Bruce. And all of you who brought this event here.