Roxana's Softball World Series hits the big time

ESPN has been dubbed “the worldwide leader in sports,” airing anything and everything under the sun that has to do with athletic activity. This August, they’ll be returning to none other than Sussex County for live coverage — yes, live coverage — of the Little League Senior Softball World Series championship.

Coastal Point • File Photo: A District III player slides in to homeplate just before the ref makes the call against Central in last year’s series.Coastal Point • File Photo
A District III player slides in to homeplate just before the ref makes the call against Central in last year’s series.

Little League Delaware District 3 Administrator Martin Donovan said he was thrilled to announce, two weeks ago, that the championship game will once again be broadcast on the international channel, after an impressive quarter-million viewers tuned in to last year’s championship, which aired two weeks after the teams played.

“It’s really an honor to go live with the championship game,” Donovan said. “This puts these teams, the athletes and coaches, as well as our area, on a national level. The final two teams will be interviewed, in-depth, giving these girls a lot more exposure that they wouldn’t normally get. The county and state did a very nice job supporting us, and I think that has attributed to ESPN returning this year.”

He explained that, as the cameras panned the field during last year’s coverage, they caught a shot of Delaware’s state flag.

“It may not seem like much, but it’s pretty amazing if you think about it,” he said. “Even the introduction, when they filmed the stands and the other teams watching the game, everything really helps to shine a light on what these kids are doing. It brings a lot of exposure to the area.”

Last year’s championship game that saw the USA Southwest team from San Antonio, Texas, defeat the USA Central team from South End, Ind., 8-0, was shown live on two of ESPN’s sister stations, ESPN-U and ESPN 360, stations few other than sports fanatics are familiar with, or have purchased for that matter. ESPN’s full recognition this year will likely net even a larger sum of viewers.

“All it does is add to the significance of everything,” said Donovan. “We’re excited to be hosting such a meaningful event. Now, hopefully, people will understand magnitude of these games. It’s really a big event for Sussex County to hold.”

The exposure of lower Delaware served as an eye-opener for many of the teams involved, who traveled thousands of miles to the home fields of the hosting District 3 Laurel team.

“Players and coaches from the Arizona team that played here could not believe they played in a cornfield, with a metropolitan area just a short drive down the road,” said Donovan.
Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton: Jake Balasus takes a swing against Dickinson during Tuesday’s game at Wesley College. The Indians slipped against the Rams, 6-8, in the state quarterfinal match-up.Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton
Jake Balasus takes a swing against Dickinson during Tuesday’s game at Wesley College. The Indians slipped against the Rams, 6-8, in the state quarterfinal match-up.

“The weather was pretty good last year, and, hopefully, it will hold up for us again this year.” In the past, the games had been moved to 2 p.m. in the afternoon from 4 p.m. to accommodate summer’s evening rains, but they will be moved back to 4 p.m. this year, due to the ESPN coverage.

“We got feet wet last year,” Donovan added, “and everything we did last year with ESPN will be done this year. They’re a great company to work with.”

The network had even given positive feedback to the hosting sports complex.

“They commented that we provided more information to them than Yankee Stadium did when they got there,” Donovan said proudly. “They had to ask for stuff there, but our field director, game director and overall director handed them everything they needed for both teams for the whole week.”

In addition to a prepared game staff, the Lower Sussex Little League complex in Roxana was equipped (and will be again this year) with well-trained medical personnel.

“One of the things people had noticed,” he added, “was that when we had an injury out on the diamond, the medical people got on field as soon as possible. Even the announcers were impressed on how quickly and qualified our professionals were. People don’t understand all the behind-the-scenes people that contribute to the World Series. We make sure that we’re prepared.”

Sports trainers from Beebe Medical Center, area medics and ambulance crews all volunteer their time for the series.

“It’s going to be fun for everyone,” said Donovan. “Last year, the girls saw the TV cameras being set up, and you could see the excitement on their faces when they knew that they’d be on television. It’s a real big deal for them.”

According to a district administrator in Maryland, one softball player was even awarded a scholarship based almost entirely on footage of her performance broadcast after the Little League Senior Softball World Series. This August will mark the fifth World Series hosted at the Pyle Center and the 11th year for tournaments and competition in the eastern region.

“The economy is in a slump right now,” Donovan noted, “and costs are going up. Sponsorships are harder to get, but we’re working with a good bunch of people. We’ll get people from all walks of life – a whole variety of cultures. We had the best bunch of girls last year. Managers and coaches are really learning good issues. These girls have been playing ball for a long time.”

The Little League Senior Softball World Series will be held at the Pyle Center, Aug. 3-9, hosting teams from across the globe. The championship game will air on ESPN on Aug. 9.