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LaRossa Inspires Young Athletes
Members of the T-Ball Giants team work to hold up their banner as they wait to be announced as part of Opening Day ceremonies for the Babe Ruth/Little League season on Saturday at Hogan Park. Marg Jackson/The Times


The singing of the National Anthem, introduction of teams, the throwing out of the ceremonial first pitch, all were part of traditional Opening Day ceremonies at Escalon’s Hogan Park on Saturday.

But the 2015 Babe Ruth season also started with a moment of silence for a couple of longtime coaches lost in the past couple of months, and some remarks from Michelle LaRossa, whose husband Jamie, passed away in January. He had coached many little league and soccer teams over the years at Hogan Fields and he was remembered, along with Dan Pangilinan.

Pangilinan passed away in December and also coached while his three sons were taking part in Escalon rec programs.

It was a sunny but chilly Saturday morning as the teams marched on to the playing fields, many hoisting banners, eagerly awaiting their turn to be introduced. Mayor Gary Haskin welcomed the crowd and council member Robert Swift handled the introduction of teams.

For LaRossa, offering some words to the gathered players, coaches and parents on hand for the ceremonies was a last minute decision. She had been asked earlier, she said, but decided on Saturday morning that she would attend.

“He was a wonderful coach and father, a friend, a co-worker, he spent a lot of years out here with our children,” Michelle said of her late husband coaching the teams of their son and two daughters.

She told the crowd that, in honor of his love of baseball, the family vacations over the years have been taken to various Major League stadiums around the country. As a family, they have visited 21 out of 30. The other nine, Michelle and her children will visit, completing the tour they started with Jamie. She said the family vacations often covered 2500 miles or more, 10 to 12 days, with the family ‘unplugged’ from today’s technology.

“It’s all about being present,” she said, urging the parents and kids to make the most of their time together, whether it’s on the baseball diamond or at a school function.

She added that her husband, as a coach, focused on all his teams displaying good sportsmanship, respect, a love for the game and having a positive attitude.

“Hustle, pay attention and have fun,” LaRossa said, encouraging players to make the most of their season.

For the coaches, she urged them to be good role models.

“Be a light for others, the way my husband was,” she said.

For the parents, she had some additional heartfelt advice.

“Say the only six words your kid needs to hear,” she noted of the youngsters taking the field. “I love to watch you play.”

Teams ready for the season include 12 at the T-Ball level, four in Rookie Girls, nine in Rookie Boys, four in Minor Girls, six in Minor Boys, two in Major Girls and three in Major Boys, representing several hundred children.

Sponsors include many local businesses, in addition to various city departments.

With the ceremonial throwing out of the first pitch by Miss Congeniality 2014 in the Miss Escalon pageant, Kaitlynn Mayfield, to all-star catcher Brooke Campbell (this year in Major Girls), the season was declared officially under way.