There were no official opening ceremonies but that was the only real downside on Saturday.
With bright blue skies, temperatures that topped out just over 70 degrees, and a light breeze, conditions were perfect for the cry of ‘Play Ball!’ at the fields and diamonds of Hogan-Ennis Park in Escalon.
Typically, the first day of contests includes the announcing of teams, sponsors, managers and coaches, with kids hoisting team banners, as well as the singing of the National Anthem and a ceremonial first pitch. But there was no ceremony, as when the season was scheduled there was still some uncertainty about large group gatherings.
However, pandemic restrictions have loosened up and there were games throughout the day on March 12, with every level from T-Ball to the Majors suiting up for action.
“There are a total of 390 participants,” said Escalon Recreation Services Coordinator Bridget Gaines. “Most divisions will end by May 21st; the older divisions will go into early June since they are playing Riverbank and Oakdale.”
By level, there are 13 T-Ball teams, and that level is co-ed, with coaches on the field and behind the plate assisting players. The 8U softball has four teams and Rookie baseball has seven. The 10U softball girls have two teams playing, Minor baseball has four and there are two 12U softball squads. Major baseball has just one team, and they are one of the age groups that plays in a league with Oakdale and Riverbank teams.
“The 10U, 12U and Major Boys are playing a fully integrated schedule with Oakdale and Riverbank due to our low number of teams. The Minor Boys are playing just a couple of game with Oakdale just for experience,” Gaines noted.
A variety of local businesses, service clubs, organizations and businesses have stepped up to sponsor the teams once again this season.
Typically, teams are outfitted with major league monikers, such as the Giants, Dodgers, Athletics, and more. This year, for the first time, the youngest T-Ball division has been aligned with Minor League team mascots, said Gaines.
“We were advised by our vendor to make the swap due to the potential of supply shortages,” she explained. “The team names and hats are fun and colorful. We only used the Minor league for the T-Ball division.”
This year’s roster of T-Ball teams in the Escalon Recreation program include: the Bowling Green Hot Dogs, Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, Durham Bulls, Midland Rockhounds, Quad Cities River Bandits, Norfolk Tides, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Hartford Yard Goats, Fresno Grizzlies, Wilmington Blue Rocks, Sacramento River Cats, Lansing Lugnuts and the Fort Meyers Mighty Mussels.
And with the first day of action completed, the season will run for the next several weeks.
“There will be games on both evenings and Saturdays,” said Gaines, adding that she is still finishing up the schedules.
Some are posted on the website at Escalon Babe Ruth (bluesombrero.com).