Purcellville is sweeping its streets, planting flowers and painting lines on its roads. The Loudoun County parks department is manicuring Fireman's Field, where a new public address system and press box have been installed, and mounting signs around the grandstands. And dozens of families are opening their homes to the players and coaches who will descend on Purcellville this week for the 16-Year-Old Babe Ruth Baseball World Series.
The week-long tournament, which opens Saturday, involves 10 teams from across the country, including a Greater Loudoun team and the Northern Fairfax All-Star team, the Virginia state champions. Purcellville has been host to more than a dozen tournaments for the league and held World Series at Fireman's Field in 1998, for 16-year-olds, and 2001, for 16- to 18-year-olds.
It takes more than $150,000 and hundreds of volunteers to put on the World Series. Babe Ruth organizers "look at community involvement, whether or not that community is going to be able to pull together all the resources to host something of this magnitude," said David Hoag, vice president of Greater Loudoun Babe Ruth, who played in Babe Ruth leagues as a teenager in Vermont. "It's all in the name of the kids who are out there playing the game."
Each game requires about 35 people to take tickets, help with parking, sell concessions and keep score. Visiting teams need places to stay and rides to and from the airport. The 17 players on the Loudoun team must be selected, coached and provided with gear.
As host, Loudoun gets an automatic berth. This year's home team has been named the Greater Loudoun County Don Rose Lions, in honor of Don Rose Sr. of Purcellville, a 33-year veteran of the league. Rose, 65, has been a coach and league president in Greater Loudoun Babe Ruth and now serves as the Virginia state commissioner for Babe Ruth. A month ago he underwent a liver and kidney transplant; after two weeks in the hospital he started working with his brother's construction company to build the press box.
"Loudoun is probably one of the best communities for any sport," said Rose, who plans to attend all the games in the tournament. "We get to showcase our kids, and they get to make friends with a lot of players all over the U.S. and Canada."
The press box was created by enclosing an area in front of the concession stands. It looks over the field with big bay windows and a fresh coat of green paint. Inside, it includes phone jacks, lights and air conditioning for reporters and broadcasters.
"It's the best seating in the house," said Ron Eamich of Leesburg, who is on the series' board of directors.
Fireman's Field also got a new warning track, a rubberized layer coating the concrete on the edge of the field to help players maintain their footing, and a public address system purchased with the earnings from the last World Series in Purcellville.
The Purcellville Skating Rink, next to the field, will house a first aid station, a display of the winners' trophies and vendors selling embroidered T-shirts, hats, seat cushions, water bottles and pins.
Housing coordinator Jim Ballentine of Waterford said he had found 56 homes to take in about 140 of the expected 180 players. Each host family was asked to board at least two players and be responsible for their meals, laundry and transportation to and from games.
"I could use a few more, but I've got things covered," said Ballentine, who will host two players at his home. "There's a few families that would take a whole team if you let them."
Most of the adults affiliated with the World Series are staying at the Comfort Suites in Leesburg, which is booked for the duration of the tournament.
Ballentine is also in charge of organizing batboys and batgirls, ages 9 to 12, to retrieve foul balls and bats. About 14 have signed up.
Loudoun's team placed fourth in the 1998 tournament and was eliminated in pool play in 2001.
Beverly MacDonald, a former Purcellville Town Council member who is on the series' board, said she thinks the Loudoun team has a chance to do well. "Obviously, we'd love to have the two local teams in it for the championship," she said.
The Northern Fairfax All-Stars, which was undefeated in district and state tournament play, is made up of players from Herndon, Reston and surrounding vicinities.
Organizers say the hard work involved in putting on a World Series is worth it to improve Purcellville's interest in baseball -- and outsiders' interest in the town.
About 30,000 people attended the series in 1998, but the number fell to 10,000 in 2001 because a number of games were rained out.
Purcellville Mayor William "Bill" T. Druhan said that he hopes this year's crowd will be the biggest yet and that the fans make a day trip out of the event.
"That way they can perhaps eat at some of our restaurants and do some shopping on their way in or way out," said Druhan, who plans to volunteer at the games -- perhaps by selling tickets.
To volunteer, call Barbra McWilliams at 703-433-6211. Volunteers receive a free day pass to watch games on another day. Tickets are $7 a game; a day pass costs $25, and a pass for a family of four is $45. Children younger than 6 get in for free. Free parking is available at Loudoun Valley High School, 340 N. Maple Ave., and shuttle buses will take fans to and from Fireman's Field. For more information, call 540-338-0012 or visit www.loudounbrws.com.