Lower Sussex Little League has hit a powerful double, snagging this year’s Big League Softball World Series to add to the Senior League Softball World Series it already hosts.
Economic development officials say the new series will pitch $1.2 million into Sussex County’s economy during the one-week event.
Announcement of garnering the games came Jan. 7, at the Lower Sussex Little League Complex on Pyle Center Road near Roxana, where the games will be played.
Little League International last month announced the Big League series would come to Delaware, leaving Kalamazoo, Mich., where the games had been played for 19 years.
“This was more than a month and a half of negotiation and discussions. We’re very proud to have this added to our venue,” said Martin Donovan, Lower Sussex Senior League Softball World Series director.
Lower Sussex now hosts the girls’ Senior League tournament for players 13-16 years old and Big League championship for girls ages 14-18.
Lower Sussex has hosted the Senior League World Series for the past 10 years. Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive of Little League Baseball and Softball, said moving a second World Series to Sussex County made the best sense for the organization.
“We are comfortable and confident that the local tournament committee will transition well into operating concurrent tournaments,” Keener said in a press release.
This year marks the 40th annual Senior League and 32nd annual Big League World Series.
Little League International, based in Williamsport, Pa., is the world’s largest youth sports organization, with 2.5 million players and 1 million volunteers.
Worldwide, the organization conducts eight World Series annually – four each for boy’s baseball and girl’s softball different age groups.
Twenty teams, each with about 15 players, along with managers, coaches, team officials and parents and other relatives and supporters attend the games.
More than 2,000 fans daily are expected to be in the stands at the Lower Sussex facility’s three ball fields.
ESPN, a worldwide leader in sports broadcasting, will televise championship games live. An estimated 280,000 households are expected to watch the final games on the network.
“We’re gonna start at 3 in the afternoon, details to follow because I don’t know them yet,” Donovan said. World Series play begins Sunday, Aug 4, and continues through Saturday, Aug. 10. There is never an admission fee for Little League games.
“For us to get this tournament is amazing. The spin-off in terms of the exposure on TV, the opportunities for our hospitality industry – and from an economic development perspective, this is huge,” said Gov. Jack Markell at the announcement.
“This is a big deal for a little state. There are only four World Series for girls’ softball in the world, and two of them are gonna be here in Delaware. I think that’s great,” Sen. Tom Carper said.
Alan Levin, Delaware Economic Development Office secretary, said adding the economic impact of the Big League World Series and Senior League games brings the total to about $2.5 million coming into Sussex County.
“What this is going to mean for this region is just outstanding. Between ESPN’s television coverage, the hotel nights that are gonna be stayed here, the restaurants that are gonna be seeing strangers coming in, and kids wearing their uniforms and tracking dirt in – a good kinda dirt – this is just a huge shot in the arm,” Levin said.
He said the area around Roxana is growing and some of the future development might include amenities World Series fans would use.
“These types of activities create more interest in the area, so I think you’ll see more hotel and restaurant development,” Levin said.
Donovan said the Little League World Series is an international event. Over the past decade, in addition to teams from several states, teams have come to Delaware to play ball from Canada, Germany, Guam, Italy, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland and Puerto Rico.
“It’s always exciting to think there are 7,000 girls competing for the opportunity to come to Roxana,” Donovan said.
To see more information about the upcoming games, go to www.seniorsoftballws.org.
Freeman legacy continues to support Little League
The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 2007 to honor Josh Freeman, is a major local World Series sponsor.
Joshua Freeman, former chairman of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, was killed in a December 2006 helicopter crash.
The foundation bearing his name seeks to honor his passion and commitment to excellence by creating and supporting projects of which he would be proud.
“We could not have hosted these World Series without Josh Freeman and Freeman companies, including their donation for this year,” said Martin Donovan, Senior League Softball World Series director.
Over the past decade, Donovan said, Freeman has provided nearly $500,000 to Sussex County’s Little League programs.
Patti Grimes, Joshua M. Freeman Foundation executive director, said Michelle Freeman, Josh Freeman’s widow, is president and chairwoman of the Carl Freeman Foundation.
“She’s very supportive of continuing the legacy that Josh started,” Grimes said.
The foundation also operates The Freeman Stage at Bayside, an outdoor performing arts venue near Fenwick Island. There the foundation’s mission is to present memorable performances and to provide inspired arts education for everyone.
The Freeman Stage Bayside provides arts experiences to more than 25,000 visitors a year.
For additional information, go to www.freemanfoundation.org.