The joy on the faces of Phillies teammates Addison Ridenhour, 6, and Joshua Muchmore, 7, means it’s spring and the annual opening of Little League baseball season.
On a recent cloudy Saturday morning at H.B. Fuller Park, players standing in the outfield in their colorful uniforms and spectators alike shared in the singing of the National Anthem and the traditional “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” It’s a scene of classic Americana rivaled only by the celebration of the Fourth of July.
“There’s just so much heart here,” said Cymany O’Brien, who keeps baseball stats and runs scoreboards during some of the games.
Twenty-eight teams comprising 315 kids who range in age from 4 to 18 make up Hazel Dell Little League. They are part of a much bigger local Little League organization that includes 8,500 boys and girls on almost 500 baseball and softball teams in 19 leagues.
“It’s a blast, opening up the season,” said Cardinals manager Andy Hahn, now in his eighth season. “It’s fun coaching and seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces.”
A lot of people look forward to the odors and tastes of the food served at the concession stands.
“You’ve got to have concessions when you go,” said Kristi Crusan, who has two young sons playing in the league. “It makes it feel like baseball when you get that corn dog.”
Soon after the ceremonial first pitch crossed home plate and the diamond is cleared for the next game, a light rain begins. Many fans stay in the bleachers and open their umbrellas, unfazed. They will cheer on their favorite players and teams, no matter the weather.
What makes Little League opening day so special?
Padres manager Brad Reitzenstein, who was preparing his team for its game, offered an answer.
“It’s the best time of the year,” Reitzenstein said. “The beginning of spring and better weather ahead.”