For a week in August, Elm Street Park (ESP) in my hometown of Greenville, North Carolina, will become a hotbed of girls’ softball when the international Little League Softball® World Series gets under way.
The Softball World Series scheduled for Aug. 9 to 15, 2022, is the culmination of a long season for 9- to 13-year-old players, who have positioned themselves among the top softball teams in Little League programs across the U.S. and in several other countries. Right now, they’re competing to determine which teams will participate in the series.
When play begins, millions of fans around the world will be watching on the ESPN family of networks.
I’ll be there, volunteering, along with a slew of others from across the country, including an all-female field crew.
Sports field managers interested in getting involved are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A Big Day for Greenville
In 2019, Greenville Little League (GLL) Commissioner Brian Weingartz approached me about a big event announcement scheduled for February 2020. When he asked if I would volunteer to help get ESP’s field ready for the event, I told him I would do anything I could to help.
Feb. 19, 2020, was a dreary winter day in Greenville, but I was there with Brian and others when Little League® International Tournament Committee Chairman Patrick W. Wilson announced that Elm Street Park had been chosen to serve as the new home of the Little League Softball World Series under a five-year agreement. What an amazing thing for Greenville—an international stage for the ballpark, ESPN coverage, and a long-term event bringing people from all over the world to the city.
That August was supposed to be ESP’s first year hosting the series. But COVID-19 hit, the world stopped for a while, and the series was canceled, so we set our sights on 2021.
I had been fortunate to go to Williamsport, Pennsylvania—home of Little League International—to volunteer with Jeff Fowler, who oversees grounds crew volunteers for the Little League Boys World Series. Little did I know I would be tasked with coordinating field crew volunteers at ESP.
It was a huge job, especially since the field’s grass infield isn’t set up for softball, which is typically played on a dirt, all-skinned infield. We had to convert the playing surface to all dirt for the August 2021 series, then return it to all grass in time for September’s fall season.
GLL hired Eastern Turf Maintenance to do the conversion, and I took the reins once it was completed. As a member of the Sports Field Management Association (SFMA), I put out a national call for volunteers. The situation with COVID-19 was unknown, and all volunteers working on the field were required to be vaccinated.
A total of 23 volunteers from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee answered the call. What they accomplished in the three days leading up to and during the series blew me away. You can read about it in my blog article, Preparing for a Live Sporting Event Like the Little League Softball World Series.
One year later, we’re ready to do it all again.
Ewing’s Carolinas Regional Manager Jeremy Bohonko, left, was one of 23 volunteers
who joined Ewing Sports Field Account Manager Chris Ball in getting
Elm Street Park’s field ready for the 2021 Little League Softball World Series.
Field Crew Who’s Who
This year marks a first for the Softball World Series—an all-female field crew. That wasn’t on our radar until this past January, when Sun Roesslein, a stadium manager from Colorado, approached me at the SFMA conference in Savannah, Georgia, to inquire about volunteering during the event.
Sun and I met with several others who also were interested in coming to Greenville and that led to where we are now—a 13-member field crew comprised of women. Here’s the line-up:• Amy Fouty, CSFM, consultant for The Motz Group; Naples, Florida
• Morgan Hunter, head groundskeeper for the Columbia Fireflies; Columbia, South Carolina
• Meg Kruger, content specialist at Pioneer Athletics; Westlake, Ohio
• Kelly Lynch, regional director at PureSeed; Bend, Oregon
• Sarah Martin, park supervisor, city of Phoenix Water Resource Management; Phoenix, Arizona
• Martiza Martinez, groundskeeper for the University of South Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina
• Cheryl Miller, facility manager for Little League Southeastern Region; Warner Robbins, Georgia
• Nina Oldenkamp, vice president of Operations for Odey’s Field Experts; Omaha, Nebraska
• Cassie Reed, field staff, Texas A&M University; College Station, Texas
• Holly Robinette, communications admin at Hickory Grove Baptist Church; Taylorsville, North Carolina
• Sun Roesslein, CSFM, stadium manager at Jeffco Schools Athletics’ North Area Athletic Complex; Denver, Colorado
• Brynn South, recent high school graduate, future college softball player, and turfgrass manager; Athens, Alabama
• Leah Withrow, head groundskeeper for the Reno Aces; Reno, Nevada
The crew will be on hand Aug. 11 to 15, conducting daily field prep for tournament games, mowing, repairing clay, lining, repainting logos, managing the field, maintaining equipment, and more. They will overlap a group of 20 volunteers, mostly male, who will work from Aug. 5 to 12 prepping the facility for tournament play—painting logos, edging, conducting clay work and repair, manicuring the field, organizing maintenance areas, staging and setting up equipment, and conducting daily field prep for tournament games.
The women’s presence will be a big deal for the players, who will have the chance to observe women in the sports field industry at work and interact with them. The industry is struggling to bring in new people. If just one of the young players is inspired to explore jobs in the industry after watching these professional women at work, then we’ve done a great thing.
About the Venue
Elm Street Park holds a special place in my heart. I played there as a little leaguer in the late 1980s, and my brothers played there. In high school, I worked there summer mornings assisting with “Small Fry Baseball,” one coach’s nickname for the program for 4- to 8-year-olds.
Later, as an industry professional, I assisted in efforts to restore the ballpark after 1999’s Hurricane Floyd flooded the field, destroyed the playing surface, and threatened to shut down our Little League program that next year.
ESP opened in 1951 as the original home of Greenville’s Little League Baseball. The field hasn’t undergone any major renovation since it opened, though it sees almost daily play from late March through mid-July and September through October.
Among his many duties as GLL commissioner, Brian Weingartz maintains the field. After he overseeds in the fall, the field naturally transitions to a hodgepodge of Bermuda grass varieties that stem from the ’50s, but Brian somehow manages to keep everything looking good.
He meticulously grooms the infield skin and treats the infield grass like a member of his family, ensuring the field is safe and playable. It’s that kind of dedication and attention to detail that brought the Softball World Series to Greenville. It also inspired me and so many others to volunteer.
I am honored to represent Ewing and the green industry at the series, and I’m excited to get the logistics finalized so we can put on a great tournament. I can’t wait to follow up with everyone afterward.
To learn more about the Little League Softball World Series and see the schedule, visit the event website.
If you have any questions or comments, reach out to me on Twitter @CBEwingSports