Come July 28, players from around the world will descend upon Everest Park in Kirkland for the 21st Junior League Softball World Series.
Eastlake Little League — the host squad and District 9 champion — will be one of 10 teams (six from the United States and four international) competing for the championship. The title game will take place at 2 p.m. Aug. 3 and will be televised live on ESPN2.
The teams — consisting of players ages 13 to 14 — are split into two pools, and the first game will take place between Latin America and the West at 9 a.m. July 28. Each team will play four pool games and the top four squads from each pool will advance to the next portion of the tourney. For the full game schedule (not all the teams have been determined at press time), visit www.littleleague.org/world-series/2019/jlsbws/
The opening ceremonies will be held at noon on July 28. During the tourney, admission and parking are free, and thousands of people are expected to attend the tournament at Everest (500 8th St. South), which has four fields — two for games at the tourney and two for practices during the event.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Junior League Softball World Series back to Kirkland for another exciting tournament,” said Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet. “It’s an exceptional honor to greet these incredible, hard-working young athletes and their families. We encourage our community members to embrace this great event by attending a game or two and supporting these inspiring competitors in their quest for the championship!”
The city’s Tourism Development Committee granted $10,000 in lodging tax funding to support the event, according to the city of Kirkland.
John Chadwick, tournament director for his 21st year, said that this time out, ESPN+ will live stream all the games except for the final and friendship contests.
“Some exciting softball. I enjoy it. It keeps an old man young,” said Chadwick, 85. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s exciting to see the world.”
Chadwick noted the between 6,000-7,000 spectators usually attend the games and the opening and closing ceremonies. He gets a thrill out of watching the players get to know each other at the opening ceremony.
The closing ceremony is bittersweet: “That’s when all the girls are saying goodbye to all their new friends. It’s pretty exciting to see them loving each other,” Chadwick said.
Eastlake ended last year’s season one victory shy of qualifying for the World Series. This summer, the Sammamish team has reached the big dance and will take on Bulacan Little League of Norzagaray, Philippines in the local team’s opening game at 5:30 p.m. July 28.
Head coach Jeff Austin said it was a group effort — “one through 13” — that gave Eastlake the district title. They finished with a 4-1 record and defeated Redmond, 4-0, to notch the crown.
“Team, team, team. Everyone. All for one and one for all,” added Austin, whose team returns four players (and just one starter) from last year’s team that took second at district, won state and lost to eventual World Series champion Utah in the west regionals final.
Austin praised his defense to the hilt, adding that Eastlake’s players displayed some running, “crazy” catches in the outfield.
When they assembled the team, “What we noticed right away was that the girls can throw the gloves around,” Austin said. “Our ethos has always been, if you get into trouble, let your defense play.”