March 8, 2005 > Play Ball
Storm clouds finally began to break apart and sunshine prevailed as the Niles-Centerville Little League opened its 2005 season March 5 on groomed fields located behind Vallejo Mill School. The league's 40-year history extended for another year as exuberant teams took their place for subsequent ceremonies while parents and friends cheered. As they marched, ran and leaped onto the field, each player represented thousands of their counterparts across the nation who greet the lengthening days of spring with bat, ball and glove.
League president David Mayer's opening comments set the tone when he said, "We are family, friends and neighbors who are here to share community." The league emphasizes that the purpose is to promote baseball, but the most important aspect is to have fun. From Tee Ball (ages five to seven) to Senior and Big League players, boys and girls, parents and friends, everyone agreed that the fun was an essential ingredient.
Along with hopes and dreams for the clutch hit and the sparkling fielding, players were happy to finally be outdoors on a sunny day with the sounds and smells of baseball in the air. Master of Ceremonies and League Vice President Gary Williams kept the crowd entertained and called on Veterans from the Veteran's Hall in Niles to raise the American flag and local singer Cynthia Anderson sang the national anthem like an angel.
The 2004 Junior All-Stars, under Coach Tom Furtado, were recognized for their success as District 14 (Fremont and Newark) Champions and 2004 Major All-Stars, under Manager Perry Romero, were enthusiastically cheered as finalists in the Northern California (from San Luis Obispo to the Oregon border) championship game and one of the top four little league teams in the state of California. Williams reminded everyone that this team had advanced farther in post-season play than any other in the league's history. Fremont councilmember and neighbor of Vallejo Mill School, Anu Natarajan, presented a proclamation to the league and ceremonies closed with Niles icon Michael McNevin, inviting all the players to join him singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." In 2003, McNevin was invited to play a concert at the Baseball Hall of Fame Theater. His song, "The Pride Of Niles Centerville Little League," was added to the Official Hall of Fame Baseball Song Collection and his Etch-A-Sketch drawing representing that little league song was hung in the Hall of Fame Art gallery.
McNevin's final words said it all... "Play Ball!"
The crowd left the field, the snack shack was open and serving hungry kids and parents as teams scheduled for the early games took positions on the field or in the dugout. All over the Tri-Cities the scene is being repeated as baseball warms up for another season. Winter is definitely over!
If you want to volunteer, sponsor the league or just come by to see a great part of Americana, go to http://eteamz.active.com/nc for team schedules. There is no charge to come out and watch a game and no better way to spend a warm afternoon. "Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd..."