The Senior League Softball World Series.
It’s basically become something that’s just ingrained in our community now, right? For 15 years, the people from District 3 and Lower Sussex Little League — your friends, co-workers and neighbors, in many instances — have been hosting some of the greatest young softball players on the planet right up the road in Roxana.
They’ve organized shifts of selfless volunteers providing security, operating the snack bar, keeping score, cleaning up the park and any other number of non-glamorous jobs that have to get done in order for these remarkable athletes to have that milestone moment in their respective lives that we all want them to have. They’ve set up travel and accomodations from various airports to Sussex County. They’ve dealt with weather, logistical nightmares and smarmy members of the media like mys... um, like, Jason Feather.
They don’t do it because they feel as if it will give the local team a competitive advantage or because they think they’ll get rich by volunteering to help in an international youth softball tournament. They usually do it because they care. They care about providing these athletes an amazing experience, and they care about presenting this community to the rest of the world in a positive light. They care about contributing alongside the other members in their service organizations that answered the bell to chip in, and they just simply care about these kids and this tournament.
As I was sitting in the bleachers on Monday night, fighting back sleepy-eye-syndrome as the clock neared midnight, I began thinking about how much hard work goes into this tournament, and about how many great memories I get from each World Series that I’m fortunate enough to cover. So, to combat a growing trend of people just whining and complaining about everything under the sun, let’s take a look at some great positives to come out of this year’s tournament in Roxana.
• The volunteers. I won’t spend a lot of time on this since I already mentioned quite a bit about what they do at the World Series, but it can’t be overstated: Great volunteers, great tournament. No volunteers, no tournament.
• Tristen Shaw, who played third for Canada late in their opening game on Monday, reacted to a foul ball well outside of her range by sprinting after it like her hair was on fire and the ball owed her money. She didn’t come close to catching it, but she didn’t stop running until that ball hit the ground. If you don’t think organized sports can teach a young person to always give his or her all, you aren’t paying attention.
• As Latin America and USA Southwest did battle in their 8-inning opening game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m., fans and players on each side of the field never lost their enthusiasm as the clock continued to beat into a new day. Each pitch was met by hoots and hollers from either side of the crowd, and the players never stopped the chatter. As a spectator who “didn’t have a horse in the race,” the enthusiasm from both sides kept me riveted and engaged.
• Dee Bent, centerfielder and pitcher for USA Southeast, has really been impressive, at the bat, in the field and on the hill. She made a diving catch of a popup in the team’s opening game that left my mouth open, and she had a catch on a scary come-backer line drive in their second game that seemed equal parts fancy glove work and self-defense. Either way, she is a fun player to watch.
• The fans and coaches of the Canadian team are nice. They’re just a polite group of people who offer encouragement to their team throughout their games, and they don’t seem to get caught up in the screaming or other nonsense surrounding calls that are perceived to go against their team. It’s always a pleasure to watch a game from their side of the field.
• In fact, the vast majority of spectators and coaches are remarkably polite and encouraging, even more so this year than in years passed at the Series, in my opinion. In an age when we can’t seem to have a conversation in society without turning ugly against one another, it is refreshing to spend time with people who behave like human beings.
• Sticking with this theme, though the majority of us never want to ever see an injury, on the field or off, it fills my heart to see players from each team take a knee when someone is injured or receiving medical attention. It’s a simple gesture, but it suggests class and sportsmanship.
• I love how every time a foul ball gets lifted out of play, 15 people reflexively yell “Heads-up” to anybody that could possibly be in danger of catching one in the old coconut. It is actually a great service in that it forces anybody who could be in immediate danger to instantly lower their faces into their armpits and use a forearm or random napkin to protect their skulls, but it’s also pretty comical to see random people walking around who are in no danger whatsoever behave like the sky is about to start raining down bowling balls. I really got into the spirit of this tradition this year and started yelling out “Heads-up” between innings, at the snack bar and into random portable toilets at the facility.
Why don’t more people like me?
By Darin J. McCann