Saturday brought with it sunshine, warm temperatures – and a little bit of normalcy, as dozens of local youngsters grabbed their bats and gloves and hit the ball fields at Hogan-Ennis Park.
It was opening day of the city’s Little League season and though the ongoing pandemic restrictions did not allow for the traditional ‘Opening Day’ ceremonies, the athletes were able to play their games.
From T-ball to the Minors, teams took the field for games throughout the day and, according to City Recreation Coordinator Dave Anderson, there will be games during the week as well as Saturdays this season.
“At one point, we’ll have all five fields going,” Anderson said Saturday morning as the first games were being played, utilizing all available diamonds at Hogan-Ennis Park. “We will also play during the week this year, one or two games a night, three nights a week.”
That is to fit in the entire season in a shorter time period.
Initially, added Anderson, there was some concern about the season not happening, as they had difficulty getting enough coaches. But once the coaches were lined up, the schedule was set for the youngest T-ball players, ages four to six; as well as coach pitch, rookies and minors.
The nine- and 10-year-old Minors division is the oldest group this year, as they did not do a Majors division.
“The kids were just dying to play,” Anderson said of having a good turnout for sign-ups. “It has been a year and a month, a month and a half since we have had any rec sports.”
Last year, the Little League program had its Opening Day and associated games, then had to abruptly shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, things are starting to slowly open back up, with the Little League the first official city-sponsored youth sports program since March of 2020.
“Soccer sign-ups are going on now, that’s next,” Anderson added. “We should also have flag football coming up and we are planning on youth basketball in the winter.”
Anderson said hopefully the trend of fewer COVID cases and more vaccines continues for San Joaquin County, allowing for the youth sports to get back on track.
As far as seeing the smiling faces of kids, hearing the cheering of family in the stands and watching youngsters enjoy the game, Anderson summed it up simply: “It’s beautiful.”