There is something about a neighborhood’s Little League baseball opening ceremonies that really makes you proud to be part of such a small town community. Most outsiders don’t think of Los Angeles or it’s regions as a small town but those of us who are either natives or have lived here most of our lives know the truth. No matter where you live within the confines of our vast city or how many commuters venture in or out on a daily basis, your neighborhood becomes your very own Small Town USA.
Nothing exemplified that idea more than witnessing the opening ceremonies this weekend for Cheviot Hills’ baseball Pony League. Moms and dads up early to flip pancakes and fry bacon for the annual big breakfast on the field. Local businesses (Ben Lee included!) sponsoring the festivities, shaking hands and meeting new families. Baseball games being played for the first time this season after weeks of practicing and bonding with teammates. And when it was time to start the opening ceremonies themselves, all the kids in the league, hundreds of smiling faces, taking the field at once, trying to contain their excitement, proud to be wearing their new uniforms for the first time, patiently enduring the remarks from league’s officials.
To get things started, everyone was asked to stand and remove his/her caps for the National Anthem, sung this year (much to the delight of the entire crowd) by one of the umpires, a usually gruff sort of gentleman who has been around so long he has literally watched generations of kids grown up on the fields from which he makes his calls. Tasked with this important job, he took the microphone and projected his voice with gusto, letting it soar across the diamond and into the stands. Once the thunderous applause died down, it was time to introduce each team and its coaches, dads who give so much of their time over to these young athletes, but do it out of such a palpable love of the game and the players, it’s infectious watching the pride they take in their job at hand and the benefit the kids gain from their efforts.
After each team ceremoniously tossed (and tried to catch) their brand new baseball caps in the air upon hearing the introduction of their team’s name, the league saved the best for last. They welcomed the youngest players into league by letting them run around the bases, receiving high fives and excited hand slaps by all the big kids, tapping their baseball caps and patting them on the backs. Their way of ushering the littlest guys into the fold, letting them know that they will always have lots of big brothers and a few proud sisters on the field looking out for them.
The day wouldn’t have been complete without the entire league, coaches and parents joining together to sing an extremely loud and slightly off-key version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame before splitting off to watch their teams play their first official games.
So, if you ever feel like you live in a huge soulless city, I encourage you to find your local little league and, even if you don’t have a child playing the game, just watch one anyway. It’s an easy way to make new friends and it will restore your faith that smaller neighborhoods and all the wholesome fun that goes along with it still very much exist.