There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the multitudes of uniform-clad youth stood with hands on hearts and team hats clutched tightly while listening to Jordan Harris sing the National Anthem during Saturday’s Gastineau Channel Little League Opening Day ceremonies at Adair Kennedy Field.
I like to think it was the singing that got us all misty.
The rain had long stopped and the ceremonies were well underway.
Lines of running, skipping and jumping ball players joyfully had speed along the track at Adair Kennedy in front of bleachers full of proud parents and fans.
Players big and small were welcomed onto the field by members of the Thunder Mountain baseball and Juneau-Douglas softball teams.
Flag bearers Sam Dobson and Riley Sikes had proudly led the league into the Adair Kennedy field and stood tall among their peers.
“I am pretty excited,” Sikes, an outfielder/second baseman/shortstop said. “I have never done this before.”
Dobson plays third base and shortstop.
“I would like the weather to be better but this is pretty cool,” Dobson said. “I am sure our team is going to have a good time this year and will probably do pretty good.”
A roll call of last season’s teams that battled out of southeast towards Williamsport and the Little League World Series was read: majors division state champs Michael Cesar, Bobby Cox, Jacob Dale, Erik Kelly, Luke Mallinger, Donavin McCurley, Sammy McKnight, Corbin Neville, Franklin San Nicholas, Zeb Storie, Bryce Swafford and Kasey Watts for the Majors Division All Stars; the junior state champs Grant Ainsworth, Guy Bean, Mo Bullock, Tim Christenson, Finn Collins, Matt Cunningham, Jared Markovich, Alex Muir, Brendan Pietz, Jake Tanner, Kaleb Tompkins, and Devin Williams.
The Little League Pledge, written in 1954 and unchanged, was read by players Tallulah Lustafka, Meredith Newman and Sophie Pugh:
“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.”
Chief umpire Tom Karpstein, whose father-in-law Stan Miller served the GCLL for 30 years, threw out the first baseball pitch of the little league season to Gabe Storie and the first softball pitch of the season to Sophie Hultberg. Storie filled in for Michael Cesar who will miss some of the season with a broken leg, but who came in on crutches with his team.
“It is like a new season every year,” Karpstein, a little league volunteer of 42 years, said. “I enjoy it and I have a great time every year. I never thought I would be here this long.”
A bad call by an umpire who did not know the rules cost Karpstein and his team a game over 40 years ago, and set Karpstein on the path of donning the regal umpire garb and righting the injustices of the diamond world.
Karpstein has a grandson on the way and said he will still be umpiring when the youngster makes the league, “If I can still see the ball.”
“I may be here for a while,” Karpstein said. “Maybe he will play for the Seattle Mariners, my favorite team from 1977 on.”
The highlight of the day was Harris, who just hours earlier had been playing in the rain against a high school softball opponent from Wasilla.
Harris was one of last season’s junior all-star softball team that battled eventual World Series Champion Nunaka Valley, of Anchorage, in the state championship.
Harris’ teammates were Makayla Harp, Maya Hayward, Maddie McKeown, Ashley Cunningham, Quincy Bates, Sophie Hultberg, Erica Maiquis, Maddie Johnson, Emily Lukshin, Meranda Frenzel and Elle Gray.
Harris’ voice echoed across the field, through the hats being held so tightly by tiny players and into their hearts, and then out of the eyes of proud coaches.
It is time to play ball.
Gastineau Channel style.