In a packed house on Monday, Jan. 7, Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware's senior United States senator and a former governor of the First State, walked to the podium and uttered two words that simply said it all - "Play Ball!"
And with that, the announcement was made that Little League International had awarded southern Delaware with a second World Series event, to be played this August at the Lower Sussex Little League Complex in tiny Roxana, Del.
The arrival of the Big League Softball World Series, which will be played simultaneously with the existing Senior League Softball World Series, means that Delaware's southernmost county will now host 2 of Little League's 8 events, and half of the nation's events designed for young girls.
It also means that 7,000 girls from all corners of the globe will now be vying for a trip to southern Delaware this August and that, as Carper said during his remarks on Jan. 7, "is really a big deal for a little state."
The combined World Series events, which will be held from Aug. 4-10 in southern Delaware, will now become the largest international youth sporting event in Delaware, with 20 teams of approximately 15 players each, along with managers, coaches, team officials and parents, all coming to the area in late summer.
The events are also estimated to boost the local economy by as much as $2.5 million annually.
But the financial impact aside, when I heard Director Martin Donovan mention the thousands of girls around the world who will now be playing their hearts out for a trip to southern Delaware, it really struck me what a big deal this is. Little League International only hosts 8 events of this kind in the entire country, and southern Delaware will now host 2 of them, the only location to hold such an honor.
So when the thousands of young girls take to the field in mid-summer hoping to earn a spot in the pinnacle of their sport, that pinnacle will be waiting for them in SOUTHERN DELAWARE!
Not New York, not Chicago, not Florida, not California, not even Williamsport, Pa. - they will be playing for the right to come to the Delaware beaches. And that is something for all of us here in southern Delaware to be immensely proud of.
While it will be fun and games, to a degree, it's also an immense responsibility that has been placed on our shoulders in what we in this area like to call "God's Country." But I have no doubt, as Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said during the press conference, that we will "knock it out of the park!"