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Sierra Madre Little League Opens Fiftieth Season
By Bill Coburn
The Sierra Madre Little League kicked off its fiftieth anniversary season last Saturday, on a day when forecasters had predicted rain all day long. With the exception of a couple of showers in the afternoon, the forecasters gloom and doom did not come to pass, and the League was able to play all eight games scheduled. As opening ceremonies celebrity speaker, 20-year major leaguer Jay Johnstone said at the beginning of his speech “All I can tell you is the good Lord is a Little League fan, sunshine on a day when it’s supposed to rain like crazy.” Photo at left of Jay Johnstone courtesy of the Angels, click to enlarge
The day began around 8am, with a parade of all the teams down Sierra Madre Blvd. from Hermosa down to Sierra Vista Park. Once everyone got to the park, the Opening Ceremonies got started. Sean Gurguis, of the Rockies opened things up by singing the National Anthem. Brendan McKiernan of the Giants than recited the Little League Pledge “I trust in God, I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose, I will always do my best.”
SMLL President Pete Siberell then introduced Johnstone, who played in the majors on seven different teams, appearing in 4 league championship series, and 2 World Series, including the 1981 series for the Dodgers, in which he hit a 2-run pinch hit home run that enabled the Dodgers to beat the Yankees. He had a lifetime .267 batting average.
Johnstone recalled that when he got his start in baseball, it was on the Little League fields of West Covina. He noted that one change since his days is that now the teams are allowed to be named after major league teams, while his team was sponsored by Supreme Dairy, and his uniform looked like cows. He spoke about the importance of parents in Little League, because the league is all-volunteer, and that Little League has always been a forerunner in keeping kids on the playing field and off the streets. He spoke of working with the Sheriff’s Department and visiting detention centers where he saw kids that had never had the opportunity to be involved in athletic programs, and how important it is that parents make the necessary sacrifices to get their kids to practices, dinners being put off, re-scheduling vacations, etc. because “Believe me, all the effort that you put into keeping these young boys and girls out here on the fields, will pay off because … if they’re out here, they’re not on the streets getting in trouble, and that’s what we want to try and build, we want to try and build our kids so that they will be the leaders of our country in the future.”
He noted that some parents get a little excited. Sometimes there is yelling in the stands, or disagreements with coaches, about player selection. “The only thing I can tell you parents is that when you have a problem and you want to yell or you want to scream at a coach, please…go to the coach and he’ll give you a uniform, and then you can come on the field, and be a coach, and help him out….Get involved….Don’t do it from that side of the fence, do it on this side of the fence.”
Johnstone had three other opening days to attend so he couldn’t stay long, but he advised the kids to remember the Little League Pledge, “you try your very hardest, you do your very best, some days you win, some days you lose, but remember your coaches are here to help you. Listen to your coaches….In baseball you don’t have to win every game to be good, you just have to win a few more than you lose.”
He closed with a poem that he wanted the folks in the stands to think about as they went through the season.
Just a Little
Then he threw out the first pitch, to Ryan Fedde of the Giants, and autographed the ball for him.
Siberell then announced that thanks to donations from Sierra Madre VFW Post 3208, the Arcadia Firefighter’s Association and the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association, new, safe bleachers will be purchased for Dapper and Heasley fields. Tracy Kincaid of the Sierra Madre Girls Softball Association then presented Siberell with a plaque commemorating the League’s fiftieth season.
Then it was time for the raffle prizes and awards to the players who sold the most raffle tickets. But when all was done, there was still some time before the first game, and many of the players headed down to the carnival on the lower grass field of Memorial Park, where there were booths to get your hair painted, a football toss, a bouncy house, and a wall/rock climbing “ride.”
Finally, it was time to “play ball” and as Tom Canterbury settled into the announcer’s booth, the players took to the field, and Sierra Madre Little League’s fiftieth season was underway…
SMLL Opening Day 2008 Results – source: SMLL.org, 2/27/08
2/23 – Giants 1, Padres 1
2/23 – Diamondbacks 6, Yankees 3
2/23 – Angels 8, Red Sox 3
2/25 – Yankees 11, Dodgers 4
2/26 – Diamondbacks 10, Red Sox 5
2/23 – Athletics 1, Tigers 1
2/25 – Reds 9, Cubs 4
2/26 – Cardinals 17, Athletics 2
No games recorded
The Parade Parade video (.wmv file)
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