We were excited and privileged to be a part of the 2023 Little League Softball World Series, Aug. 6 to 13, 2023, in Greenville, North Carolina.
Each year this tournament gets bigger and better. Yet again, this was a year of firsts. The championship game was broadcast on ABC for the first time. We helped host two professional softball games through Athletes Unlimited, it was the first time a team from New York won the World Series and the first time this event was staffed from beginning to end by an all-female grounds crew. What a huge win.
Dedicated Volunteers Help Prep the Field
Prep work started July 15, when we began converting the field at Elm Street Park’s Stallings Stadium from a baseball field with a grass infield to an all-skinned-infield for softball. We had the grass infield removed and replaced with a 4-inch base of clay to create a safe and playable softball skinned infield. There were also areas around the field where we replaced sod with Northbridge Bermudagrass, we brought in 25 tons of material to redefine and freshen up the warning track.
Conversion typically takes three to four days barring weather setbacks. This year proved to be great for conversion. It was hot and humid, but there was no rain.
Each year, a dedicated group of volunteers arrives a week before the tournament begins to help with the field flip and provide other tournament support. Matt Kirkman, Miller Sawyer, Jeff Mondor, Jeremy King, Rodney Crouse, Nate Groce, Greg Letizia, Taylor Morse, Brannon Powell, Travis Dill, Chuck Dean, Stephen Watson, Steven Dodson, Brad Essary, Jake Holloway and Ewing employees Rick Clelan, Efrain Manzano and AJ Nunnery all hit the field Aug. 2. Their work, support and dedication is much-appreciated.
Bring on the Women in Turf
Tournament play from Aug. 6 to Aug. 9 featured a full slate of four games each day, with two games per day through Aug. 13. The two professional games I mentioned above were played Aug. 9 at East Carolina University’s softball facility.
All of the games were broadcast on the ESPN Family of networks, with the championship game broadcast on ABC. For more information about the series, visit the tournament website.
Last year, we fielded an all-female grounds crew for the first time. This year, two all-female grounds crews ran the entire tournament. Each crew was comprised of 10 women from across the country who brought an incredible range of experience and came prepared to hit the ground running.
They included high school and college students, a golf course superintendent, parks and recreation field managers, school district field managers, NCAA D-1 field managers, college/university grounds managers, professional facility field managers and field construction professionals from Oregon to Florida, Colorado to New Hampshire, Florida to Arizona.
Group 1 came in from Aug. 6 to 9 and Group 2 from Aug. 9 to 13. Watching these women of different ages, abilities and career paths come together to produce a first-class playing surface through a grueling, week-long tournament was inspiring.
Each crew responsible for the day-to-day field prep, game-day management, pre- and post-game field maintenance, dealing with weather issues and helping prep the field at East Carolina for the 2 pro games.
They battled schedule changes, heat, rain and several additional “friendly” games while juggling tight travel schedules to get the job done. They did an incredible job and again left a lasting impression on the sport, the tournament and the sports field industry.
My hat goes off to those who volunteered this year—Sun Roesslein, Sarah Martin, Nina Oldenkamp, Amy Fouty, Piper Richardson, Martiza Martinez, Brynn South, Katie Mraz, Chrissie Segars, Kimberly Britton, Robin Wilson, Jake Horne, Cheryl Miller, Megan Muesse, Tara Jordan, BJ Thomas, Nancy Cienfuegos, Kendall Gurley, Logan Strong, Liz Rice and Kat Lambert. I can’t thank you enough for your work, your commitment and your friendship.
Personally, this event is one of the highlights of my career. I’ve been fortunate to volunteer with the series since it moved to Greenville—my hometown—and look forward to it every year.
I spent the first part of my career as a sports field manager, and my career path now has gotten me off the field. This is a way to keep my finger on the pulse of game; keep my hands dirty, if you will. The relationships formed, the networking, the sharing of field maintenance strategies, problems and solutions, and the hard work that goes in to giving the athletes a first-class playing surface is why I love doing this.
We are looking forward to another great tournament in 2024 and Ewing is proud to be part of the Little League Softball World Series.
If you’re interested in volunteering at this tournament or just want to learn more about it, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me @CBEwingSports on X (formerly known as Twitter).