Gary Woodruff saw the West Cumberland/District 3 softball all-star team he coaches lose 4-2 Thursday morning in the Junior League Eastern Regional semifinals in West Haven, Conn.
But he didn’t have much time to brood about the defeat.
After spending a little more than a week in Connecticut, Woodruff drove back to his Bridgeton home Thursday afternoon for a quick pit stop to make sure the place was still standing.
He planned to get back in the car and drive this morning to Lower Sussex, Del., to help coach the West Cumberland/District 3 Senior League softball team in tonight’s World Series semifinals.
A win would put them in the Senior League title game at noon Saturday. It will be televised live on ESPN.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Woodruff said. “I wish everybody could experience this. You’re on the road but every day is a new day and every game is a new puzzle to be figured out.”
Life can be hectic when you’re involved in one of the state’s most successful Little League districts.
In addition to the softball teams’ success, a District 3 baseball team last month played in the Big League World Series in Easley, S.C., for the third straight year.
“It shows you the dedication of the (players),” Woodruff said of the district’s success. “They just don’t dust off their gloves and come out and play. They’re working all the time. If you don’t work through the winter, you’re not going to have these kind of teams.”
District 3 consists of 16 leagues spread through Cumberland County and parts of Atlantic, Salem and Gloucester counties. The district has had at least one state champion each year since it started 27 years ago.
In 2008, the North Cumberland/District 3 baseball team won the Senior League World Series. That same year the West Cumberland/District 3 softball team reached the Senior League World Series.
The District proclaims itself “The District of Champions.”
What the district does especially well is win in the older Little League divisions. Many baseball and softball players stop playing Little League after their 12-year-old season. The 12-year-olds are Little League’s glamour division. They play in the World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Many leagues and districts struggle to fill teams in the Junior, Senior and Big League divisions.
“Every year when we have our meetings I push our leagues to keep the (players) playing, keep them in the program,” District 3 administrator Tom McCarville said.
Little League pays for players and coaches to travel to the World Series sites. But the districts must fund their trips to the regional tournaments.
McCarville doesn’t want to sound cocky but District 3 fundraises each year as if a team or teams is going to advance to the regions.
“We want to be prepared to win,” McCarville said. “Because of our history we try to sock a little bit away in case we do win. I’ll tell the guys our funds are getting smaller because we have all these teams going at the same time.”
McCarville said each November he goes to the state Little League meeting. The state organization awards plaques to each team that makes a World Series.
“Every year I come back with at least one plaque,” McCarville said. “Some (of the other administrators) tell me I’ve never even had a team make a regional.”
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