When he was 10 years old, Roger Grummett became one of the first players in the Gastineau Channel Little League.
In ceremonies Saturday morning at the Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park baseball field, Grummett was back in action as he threw out the first baseball to get the league's 50th anniversary season started.
"It was a great honor, because I was there 50 years ago," Grummett said. "I was pleased to see Gene Specht, who was one of my coaches, was there. That was as big an honor."
The Gastineau Channel Little League opened play in 1952 with three teams -- the Moose, the Douglas Lions and the Elks (Grummett's former team) -- playing games at the old Juneau Firemen's Ball Park, which is where the federal building now stands. Now there are 66 teams in the league -- including 19 softball teams -- with a total enrollment that's just short of 900 players, current league president Allan MacKinnon said.
"My dad, Stan, was one of the organizers," said Grummett, who later coached his son and now has two grandsons, Jack and George, playing t-ball (age 6-7) in the league. "I think he'd be surprised to see there are 70 teams now."
The first softball Saturday was thrown out by Mandy Massey Bixby, who was one of the first softball players in the league when that division was added 16 years ago. Massey Bixby said she started as a baseball player, but was going to quit when she reached the age, about 9-10, where girls tend to get stuck in right field. She said she told her father, Dave Massey, why she and some of the other girls wanted to quit, and they worked to get a softball program going.
"This is wonderful," Massey Bixby said. "When we started we would get beat in Anchorage by scores like 51-0. But there's been so much improvement. Now there are techniques we learned when we were 12 or 13 that they learn at 8 or 9."
While the older folks were reminiscing about where the league had been, the younger set was thinking about where the league is going.
Eric Sele, a member of the Braves minor (age 9-10) team, jumped up and down repeating the mantra, "We're going to be the undefeated team." Teammate Cody Baldwin added, "Yeah, what he said."
Some of the other players were a bit more sedate, as they tried to stay dry in the rain. They said they just enjoy playing.
"I've been playing since I was 6. I like it a lot," said Peter Nave, of the Mariners minor team.
"This is my fifth year. It's fun to get in the game," said Aislinn Shaul-Jensen, of the Cardinals major (age 11-12) softball team.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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