Fans waved flags and banners from different countries and cheered in a host of languages after every play as the Junior League Softball World Series got underway on July 28 at Everest Park in Kirkland.
Six teams representing the United States — including the host team from Eastlake Little League in Sammamish — and four squads coming to town from the Philippines, Canada, Italy and Curacao will be running the basepaths through Aug. 3. The title game for the 13- and 14-year-olds will take place at 2 p.m. that day and will be televised live on ESPN2.
All the teams took the field at noon on July 28 for the opening ceremony, which featured speeches from tournament director John Chadwick, Kirkland mayor Penny Sweet and city councilmembers Toby Nixon, Kelli Curtis and Jon Pascal.
“All of the girls and the coaches are representing their communities. That’s something very unique here,” Pascal told the crowd.
Pascal noted that his daughter represented Kirkland last summer at the majors softball World Series in Portland: “It was an amazing experience. You girls are gonna remember this for a lifetime. So, cherish every moment. Your communities are gonna be rooting for you as well. We’re just so proud of all of you for the work you’ve done to get here.”
Neldrick Lourans, one of the coaches for the Soraida Juliana Little League team from Willemstad, Curacao, said they enjoyed meeting players and coaches at the hotel and barbecue on July 27.
“The have the time of their lives. So, they are all over the place, sharing information, interchanging experiences with one another,” Lourans said after his team’s opening game, a 10-5 loss to the West (Four Peaks Softball Little League from Mesa, Arizona). “Just after the first game, a little bit nervous but it’s all settled down now,” he added.
Deyanesha Dorcas, a catcher and outfielder for the Latin American squad, added with a smile: “A lot of girls, they will come to me, ‘I like your hair… oh, you have dimples.’ It’s nice to meet new people for me.”
Following his team’s victory over Latin America in the opening game of the tournament, West manager Phil Lamoreaux said his girls battled with nerves the first couple of innings before rolling into victory mode.
On their first few days of soaking up the World Series atmosphere, he added: “It’s been a lot of fun to meet teams from all over. The host team’s been nice, just everyone running the whole tournament’s been fantastic.”
West catcher and shortstop Aymee Smith said that during the players meeting on July 27, everyone visited with each other while eating dinner in a circle.
It’s her first time playing in the World Series — and flying.
“This is my first plane ride that I’ve been on and it’s for something really cool, so World Series kind of stuff, it’s awesome. I think it’s just a really good opportunity for our team, especially (being) so young,” Smith said.
Eastlake head coach Jeff Austin spent some quality time meeting with most of the coaches at the barbecue and was impressed with how his players mingled with everyone and made quick friends with girls from Texas, Arizona and Canada.
Eastlake pitcher and first baseman Abby McNear has enjoyed being part of the welcoming host squad.
“Even though you’re playing against each other, it’s like you’re almost like a family at the World Series. Last night, I was with some Canadians and some (girls) from Florida and we were doing facemasks and painting our nails in our room,” she said.
For the full game schedule of ESPN+-streamed games, visit www.littleleague.org/world-series/2019/jlsbws/. During the tourney, admission and parking are free at Everest (500 8th St. South).