SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Something smells good in Williamsport and it’s not the fresh-cut grass on the hill at Lamade Stadium.
We are just days away from the arrival of more than 200 little sluggers in Williamsport for the Little League World Series. The security around the Grove, where the teams will live for two weeks is ramping up but Eyewitness News had the chance to visit where the players and coaches will be able to escape the cameras and competition.
The dining hall serves the more than 200 players, coaches and hosts that are active each year at the Little League World Series.
“They have a very full schedule once they arrive here. Coming in for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they can come in here with no camera crews. They can relax, feed themselves and we try to fuel them up,” cook Lisa Burkett said.
Over their stay, staff get to see the stars on the diamond as the excited kids they are.
“So it’s more than baseball here, in the dining hall. It’s a chance for the 12-year-olds to relax and have a great time,” kitchen supervisor Marilea Bubb said.
Bubb has been working every world series for the last 16 years. She says no matter what the score is at the end of a game, everyone is a winner over dinner.
“You would never know which one was the loser after a couple of minutes because they go and slap each other five. They’re truly friends because they play up in the rec hall, they play ping-pong and when they come in here for lunch they have so much fun,” Bubb said.
Burkett worked in the kitchen for four years part-time but now cooks year-round. She says that friendship extends between all the countries and players when the show comes to Williamsport.
“It’s just great seeing them and how they can communicate in different languages to one another. It’s really neat,” Burkett said.
There’s an enormous amount of prep work and logistics that goes into fueling the Little League World Series in the dining hall.
“I always say it’s crazy, it’s hectic, but it’s really so much fun,” Bubb said.
The staff loves taking care of the little guys between games, practices and media appearances. Fun fact: They say the players’ favorite food, on average? Tacos.
The Grand Slam Parade is just five days away to kick off the Little League World Series festivities.
Organizers and volunteers are busy getting ready for the massive sporting event. So who’s going to feed all the players and coaches?
Teams from across the country and worldwide put in the work to make it to South Williamsport and the staff here at the dining hall in the Grove are just as excited to see their little sluggers.
“We provide three meals a day, once they get off the bus and we have so much fun with the kids,” kitchen supervisor Marilea Bubb said.
When players get a break from the action they get to hang out with new friends and grab a bite to eat.
“It’s unbelievable. Just having all your countries in the world coming in one place and unite. It’s great seeing the kids’ reactions and the way they communicate with each other. it’s just amazing and unbelievable to see their smiles on their faces,” assistant cook Lisa Burkett said.
The staff loves the locals but also enjoys the international visitors.
“We like the Australians. They are always fun. They bring a kangaroo with them. It’s their good luck charm. I can’t say there’s just one special team. Altogether, collectively, they’re awesome,” Bubb said.
Some teams come from places where this dining hall serves them a bit more than food.
“The Uganda team was very special to us, being from the country they came from, and how appreciative they were over everything that we’ve done for them,” Burkett said.
The dining staff puts hours of hard work into keeping the kids fueled and healthy for their stay on and off the diamond.
“We have a wide variety of options. Sometimes we have to deal with food allergies and restrictions so we have something in place like a healthy option that’ll vitalize them for the day,” Bubb said.
Sometimes the healthy option isn’t the popular one.
“Tacos! It seems like kids like tacos,” Bubb said.
No matter what’s on the menu, at the end of the day, the work in the dining hall pays off.
“The staff does an amazing job feeding them three meals a day, watching them have fun and being kids,” Bubb said.
The dining hall is beefed up with both full and part-time staffers to prepare for the coming weeks. Players and coaches will arrive with high hopes and be sure to not leave with empty stomachs.
The Little League World Series begins with the Grand Slam Parade in less than one week, Wednesday, August 14.