EASLEY — The 2014 Big League World Series will be about high caliber baseball on an international level, but there is far more meaning to Easley and Pickens County than that.
“This is our 14th year hosting but this goes back 16 years when I was on city council,” Easley Mayor Larry Bagwell said on the history of the tournament. “We were approached about hosting it by Little League and were asked to put up a $50,000 investment. Council was glad to do it and now this is the 14th year with Easley on the international stage.”
The honor of being the host city for such a prestigious international championship is certainly a feather in the city’s cap, but beyond the baseball what does it mean for the community?
“Clemson University did a study several years back on the economics of the series being played here,” Bagwell said. “The study was of the greater area, including the county and over toward Clemson, and based on their figures, there were hundreds of thousands of dollars brought into the county in that one week.”
When the economics of the series is considered they include hotels, meals, incidentals, and travelers from around the world which requires not only the economic means to provide but also community involvement.
“We couldn’t have an event like this without volunteers from the community,” Bagwell explained. “The teams from overseas do bring decent crowds with them and there’s a lot to deal with locally before they even get here. Without local people stepping up to make it all come together, it would be next to impossible.”
As the series has continued to have Easley as its home, the need for more interaction between the tournament and local business and facilities has grown as well. Teams have to be housed and fed and accommodations have to be available for an influx of fans.
“Clemson University has really stepped up their involvement this year, taking on housing all of the teams together,” the mayor said. “There’s a great working relationship that’s developed between the city of Easley with Clemson and Southern Wesleyan as well. Having the Big League World Series has created some chances for the city to create some of these great working relationships.”
According to Bagwell, it appears the Big League World Series will continue to have a home in Easley moving forward.
“We have a great working relationship with the president of Little League and Little League itself,” he explained. “This is a great success story and we all agree keeping it in Easley is a great fit for everybody.”
For Easley there’s one night few small towns can lay claim to and that may be the biggest benefit of being the host city of all.
“I’ve been involved in sports all my life, either coaching or playing, and this is the candy on the apple,” Bagwell said. “When ESPN broadcasts the championship game the little town of Easley, all 20,000 people are boomed all over the world, for everyone to see what a great place this is.”