Put aside talk of bringing baseball to the Washington region for a moment. The area already has World Series hopes, which hang on the aluminum bats of 14 girls from McLean.
For the first time, a team from Northern Virginia has made it to the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore. League officials said no Virginia team has won the 30-year-old tournament, which draws 11- and 12-year-old girls from all over the world.
Coaches and players from the McLean All-Stars say they'll make a strong play for history behind their star pitchers and solid defense. In some respects, they are akin to a small-town team. Many have never been to the West Coast; one has never flown on an airplane.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these young ladies," said Patrick Sullivan, who is going on the trip and whose daughter Megan is the team's third baseman. "I think they are going to use this experience for the rest of their lives."
While the All-Stars are a first for Northern Virginia, a team of girls from Salem, Va., made it to the World Series in 1982 but not to the finals. Since then, the state has been shut out of the tournament, while perennial powerhouses from Texas and Florida have dominated the diamond.
All-Stars pitcher Brooke Brown, 12, who threw a perfect game in the state tournament against Big Stone Gap, Va., said she isn't feeling the pressure of mounting expectations.
"I'm just really excited, and I'm glad for my team and I can't wait to get there," she said. Then, in a comment that could have come from a pro, Brooke added: "I don't really feel a lot of pressure because I have a really strong team behind me, and they are always supporting me."
Nearly all of the All-Stars' wins have been lopsided. Collectively, the girls have outscored their opponents 101 to 7 through their first 11 games. They lost only once during the season to Bridgewater in the state tournament by a 2-0 score but then bounced back to beat the same team in the final game 17-0.
"This is like the greatest thing ever," said James Loving, the team's head coach, who was as giddy as the girls. "I've known about the World Series for a long time and followed it on the Internet. . . . So it's like a dream come true."
With Brooke on the mound, the All-Stars defeated West Virginia's state champions 12-1 to advance to the World Series in Saturday's South Regional Tournament, which was held in McLean for the first time. Now they'll face competition from across the United States, the Philippines, Canada, Europe and Puerto Rico. They will have to trade in their red, white and blue uniforms for orange suits with black trim that will have "South" across the front.
Ten teams will compete for the trophy. The Aug. 17 semifinals will be broadcast on ESPN2; the finals will be on ESPN two days later. The team's progress also can be followed on the Internet at www.softballworldseries.com.
Few of the girls seemed to mind or were even aware of their underdog status, especially compared with the team from Waco, Tex., which already has several championships under its belt.
"They've worked so hard, and they are very proud of themselves," said Laura Brown, mother of Brooke. "They are just hoping to bring home a world championship for the Washington area for the first time."