It's not easy being Cindy Hollis during a Babe Ruth 16- to 18-year-old World Series year. As chairperson of the Host Family Program, Hollis' mission isn't complete until each and every visiting player has a host family to call his own.

It's not easy being Cindy Hollis during a Babe Ruth 16- to 18-year-old World Series year. As chairperson of the Host Family Program, Hollis' mission isn't complete until each and every visiting player has a host family to call his own.

The arrangement provides a place where each player can eat, rest and unwind for as many as 10 days in some cases. Those temporary moms and dads provide other services, too, including transportation to and from the games and practices or perhaps nothing more than a shoulder to lean on should he become homesick.

This time around, Hollis' task wasn't accomplished until just four days ago when she excitedly announced that the final two dozen participants from a pool of about 140 had been placed.

"I can breathe easier now," she said with a laugh.

The opening ceremonies are at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Don Edwards Park in Newark, and the event concludes Aug. 12.

"It always seems to work out at the end of the day, but I really don't like it when we come down to the wire like that. Two years ago, I had all the families lined up by June and even had some back-up families just in case," Hollis said. "This is our sixth year now (since the event returned to Newark for the first time in 11 years), and people have gotten to the point where they're avoiding me. They know I'll be asking them to take some of the players in."

Her job should have been a little easier this year after the World Series, one of nine staged across the nation annually by the Babe Ruth League, unexpectedly was moved last summer to Moses Lake, Wash. Hollis struggled to meet demand as a deep recession dragged on, so Babe Ruth officials decided the community needed a break, one that ultimately did little more than rob the local economy of a much-needed infusion of tourism dollars.

The World Series first was staged in Newark in 1979, and it returned again in '80, '83, '88 and '93. In 2004, the event was brought back behind a master plan designed to make Don Edwards Park its permanent home, but that didn't work out following a five-year run when so many local residents and businesses began to feel the financial pinch.

So, Hollis had to expand her search for host families to include all corners of Licking County, from Johnstown to Pataskala to Frazeysburg and points in between.

"It's the economy. It's a lot of different things," local resident Dave Froelich, director of special events for the Babe Ruth League, said of the troubled Host Family Program. "Cindy's done a great job once again, though. I know I wouldn't want to be in her shoes."

The 10-team World Series field will feature the host Licking County Athletics, who play their first game at approximately 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against Southeast Regional-champion Mobile, Ala. The field is divided into two pools of five teams, and the top three teams in each pool advance to play in the single-elimination championship tournament.

The A's will play all of their games in the stadium, but two fields will be in use for the first time. The complex's original field, designated as Diamond No. 1, has been reconfigured to meet specifications although the lighting pole in center field will remain in play.

In another change from 2008, the Home Run Derby has been resurrected and will be held at noon on Aug. 8.

"After the opening day, we'll start playing at 4 p.m. and have two sessions every day with two games each," Froelich said. "Before, we'd play all four games in the stadium, but we had to start at 11 o'clock (in the morning) to get them in that way. It made for an awfully long day for the volunteers."

The World Series field also includes seven other regional champions in addition to Ohio representative Mount Vernon, which Froelich said has several Newark residents on its roster and will not need to have any players housed. He also noted that two of the visiting teams are bringing fewer than the limit of 18 players, which was another pleasing development for Hollis.

"With so many families struggling right now, some have told me that they'd probably be able to do it next year but not this year," she said. "Let's just hope the World Series is still here next year."

At a glance

Below are the dates and sites for the nine Babe Ruth League World Series:

Cal Ripken 10 years old - Aug. 13-20, Ocala, Fla.; Cal Ripken Major/60 - Aug. 12-19, Wilson County, N.C.; Cal Ripken Major/70 - Aug. 14-21, Aberdeen, Md.; Babe Ruth 13 years old -Aug. 19-26, Levelland, Texas; Babe Ruth 14 years old - Aug. 21-28, Loudoun County, Va.; Babe Ruth 13-15 years old -Aug. 20-27, Monticello, Ark.; Babe Ruth 16-18 years old -Wednesday-Aug. 12, Newark; Babe Ruth 12 years old softball -Saturday-Aug. 14, Alachua, Fla.; Babe Ruth 16 years old softball - Thursday-Aug. 12, Varina, Va.