Never mind that kids in their uniforms had to be on the field at 7:45 a.m.; never mind that the wind chill made it feel like Escalon should have been hosting an outdoor hockey game instead of baseball – the enthusiastic young athletes celebrated Opening Day of youth softball and baseball in style.
From T-ball to the Majors, teams filed onto Hogan-Ennis Field with banners and in high spirits on Saturday, March 9. The skies were cloudy and the wind made its presence known, but the ballplayers were eager to cheer when their team was introduced and just as eager to hear the familiar words to start the season, “Play Ball!”
Serving as emcee was Escalon Mayor Robert Swift, who first welcomed the Escalon American Legion colorguard on to the field and then introduced Kymberly Brouillard, who sang the National Anthem.
“It warms my heart when I see this,” Swift said of the Hogan-Ennis Park infield covered with young ballplayers, with plenty of family and friends there to support them.
Also attending the ceremony was city councilman Walt Murken, Recreation Department officials and several members of the city’s Recreation Commission.
“I also want to give a shout out to Krandal Vandagriff, he has been prepping the playing fields here for years and years,” Swift said, as the crowd offered applause to Vandagriff, who was in attendance for the early Saturday morning festivities.
Then it was on to the introduction of the teams, with managers, coaches and sponsors recognized as well. Orioles, Giants, Yankees and more make up the squads. The younger divisions play other local teams in their age group while some of the older divisions will see action against communities including Riverbank and Oakdale.
Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch was Miss Escalon Madison Matsunami, who took aim and fired one in, close to the plate, for catcher Rilee Hernlund, an all-star selection last year in the U12 division.
Age divisions for the Escalon Recreation baseball/softball program include co-ed T-Ball; 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U Girls softball; and Rookie, Minor and Major Boys baseball.
A full slate of games was scheduled for opening day and teams will continue to play throughout the spring.