Woodstock Little League makes its pitch for World Series
Woodstock had some special guests last week and the Woodstock Little League board of directors got a chance to show off the town in an attempt to win hosting privileges for the Little League 50/70 World Series.
Patrick Wilson, Little League International vice president of operations, Phil Rizzo, Little League District 13 administrator, and Aaron Kelly, Little League District 13 assistant administrator, visited Woodstock June 20 and were given a tour of the baseball facilities at Merryman Fields Park, Bates Park and Emricson Park. LLI toured several different District 13 sites, of which WLL is a part.
Leading the tour were WLL president Darrin Chonos, WLL 50/70 vice president Brett Shallenbarger, WLL player agent Rick Reuter, WLL fundraiser Carrie Shallenbarger, Mandy Chonos and several Little Leaguers. Even Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager joined the group during the tour.
According to Chonos, Wilson seemed impressed.
“Pat was really interested in Emricson Park,” Chonos said. “We drove in there and you could see his eyes light up. It’s really what [LLI] is looking for. A place not only to host games on a beautiful ball diamond but [to offer] other things you can do in the park – the aquatic center, tennis courts, basketball courts, jogging path, a lot of shade and other ball fields to practice on.”
A group of volunteers rebuilt Dream Field and Sullivan Field in the 1990s and the fields are maintained by WLL.
“We work really hard on them to keep them in pristine shape,” Chonos said. “When he came out and looked at the field, he was really excited.”
Wilson also toured facilities at Hampshire, Elgin, Bartlett and Dundee and, after visiting the Chicago area, he headed to Vancouver, Wash. In all, Wilson will look at four to five districts across the country and will make a recommendation to the LLI committee. He hopes to have a decision by August, but the LLI committee may take until November to finalize its decision.
LLI is looking at starting the 50/70 World Series in 2013 with games played between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15. Initially, the World Series will have eight teams, with two of those representing international squads. The tournament will grow over time. If a site in District 13 is selected to host, the District 13 champion would have an automatic bid to play in the World Series.
Chonos received word May 23 that Woodstock made it past the first cut. From District 13, LLI is interested in Woodstock, Dundee and Bartlett.
Chonos said WLL will spend the next couple of weeks looking at what it will take to expand Sullivan Field in Emricson Park to host 50/70 games. The 50/70 league, which is for players between the ages of 11 and 13, has 70-foot base paths and a pitcher’s mound 50 feet from home plate. Sullivan Field currently has a 60-foot baseball diamond and the outfield fence is at 200 feet. The outfield fence would have to move to either 250 or 270 feet. Further, a press box will need to be built and the field will need lights. Chonos noted an existing garage next to Sullivan could be converted into a press box.
The Little League World Series is broadcast on ESPN and can draw large crowds. Chonos said he believes the games the District 13 champion competes in could easily draw up to 5,000 attendees and noted the Little League World Series in Wilmington, Del., had a local team compete last year and attracted crowds of 40,000.
“The board and I feel that it will really rejuvenate a lot of interest in Little League in the area,” Chonos said. “The District 13 [champion] would get an automatic bid to the World Series. With 14 leagues in our district, we would have a one-in-14 chance of having a team in the World Series. I think the kids in the community would be excited beyond belief to have a chance to play in the World Series right here in town and be on TV.”
Chonos noted that District 13 has the advantage of being located close to Chicago and Milwaukee, with three professional baseball teams, Six Flags Great America and Lake Geneva, Wis., close by for entertainment and three major airports to meet transportation needs.
Changes to Sullivan Field will come with a price tag, but Chonos said he is confident Woodstock and its residents will step up to the plate.
“We have a really strong community,” Chonos said. “Word has kind of spread like wildfire and I think everyone’s behind it. … I think we will get a real group effort for fundraising that [WLL] can spearhead. Whatever the city can throw behind it, I feel real confident, with the setting we have with Emricson and Sullivan, that we have a real legitimate chance to get it. … I think our chances are good.”
Initial discussions with the city have occurred, according to Chonos. Woodstock council member Mike Turner said the prospect of hosting the World Series is something worth looking at.
“I think it is an exciting opportunity and one we want to fully explore and see if it’s possible to get it,” Turner said. “It’s a great way to showcase the city, and it would be a great event to host.”
People interested in assisting WLL in fundraising should contact Chonos at firstname.lastname@example.org.