As if running one World Series tournament wasn't already a monumental task for director Martin Donovan, Little League International has awarded Sussex County's District III a second tournament that will run simultaneously Aug. 4-10.
Both the Senior League (13- to 16-year-olds) and Big League (14- to 18-year-olds) World Series will be held at the Lower Sussex Little League complex in Roxana, bringing 20 teams from around the world to the region.
“I think the process we have in place works,” said Donovan, who's been associated with all nine previous World Series events in Roxana. “The question is if the process can handle twice the amount.”
The weeklong festivities will begin with opening ceremonies at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 4. Games will begin at 3 p.m.
With more than 300 players, coaches and families traveling to Delaware, the event is becoming one of the summer's most lucrative events, creating an economic impact estimated at about $1.2 million. With the addition of the Big League tournament this year, Delaware Secretary of Economic Development Alan Levine estimates the impact will rise to $2.5 million.
The Big League tournament was relocated to Sussex from Kalamazoo, Mich., where it had been held for more than 30 years. Donovan said a combination of the tournament director retiring and local officials' desire to move the tournament to a different location contributed to Little League's decision to move the event to Sussex County.
With twice the number of teams, Donovan and his staff of volunteers have made some adjustments. Each day will feature three starting times, and games will be played on three fields. Lower Sussex converted one of its baseball fields into a softball diamond to accommodate the influx of games.
As host of the week's festivities, District III is permitted to enter one team in each of the tournaments. While the girls do not take part in the painstaking, often strenuous path to the tournament through state and regional tournaments, the local teams have had their fair share of success through the years. The District III representative reached the final in four of the nine years (2006, 2009, 2011 and 2012) the event has been held in Delaware. The lone championship came in 2011, when Laurel beat Latin America 2-0.
This year's senior league representatives will hail again from Laurel, which brings back 2011 manager Brad Lee to see lightning can strike twice. The Big League squad will be a Sussex County all-star team managed by Guy Wilkins. The roster features girls from throughout Sussex, including Cape's Alexis Berger and Tiara Duffy.
Earning their way into the tournament the long way are the senior league girls from Milford, who defeated Maryland 4-2 in the Eastern Regional finals in Worcester, Mass., Aug. 1. They will open World Series play against Laurel at 3 p.m., Aug. 4.
International players will be traveling to the region from as far away as the Philippines and Italy. U.S. teams will represent five regions of the country.
“It's going to be a big event,” Donovan said. “These girls have been playing ball for a long time to come here and spend seven days with us. They started playing in May and they were all trying to get here. Twenty teams were fortunate enough to do it.”
The events will again draw a national crowd, with both championship games tentatively scheduled to be broadcast live on ESPN. The Senior League final will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 10, with the Big League final following at 3 p.m.
New this year is the ability to follow all 54 games in real time on the internet. Donovan said 12 volunteers are dedicated to operating the live stats program called Gamechanger, which will provide family and friends a pitch-by-pitch game account if they're unable to make it Roxana.
For more information about the World Series tournaments, go to seniorsoftballws.org and bigleaguesoftballws.org.