An overcast sky threatened to rain on our parade, literally, as we waited for the dozens of Little Leaguers to tramp through the park from the empty swimming pool waiting for a Memorial Day opening, to the freshly mowed and raked baseball diamond on the Southside of the park on Saturday morning.
It was opening day for Little League season in Frankfort.
The players marched oldest to youngest joined by their coaches, with the four major league teams following first behind the bright red fire truck, then the four minor league teams, then the four 8-and-under teams. The brightly colored jerseys, in golds and reds and royal blues, were crisp and creased, and the white, gray, and black nylon pants were still stain-free. The baseball caps sat high on heads, no sweat rings yet forming just above the bills.
By the end of the day, those jerseys and pants would be thrown into the laundry along with knee-high socks and undershirts, soiled and smelly from those first few innings. But for now, they were parade-worthy as the boys marched and waved behind banners announcing team names and sponsors.
After the teams wound their way to the diamond, the crowds packed into the wooden bleachers while last year’s all-stars were honored, and this year’s teams were announced. The sun peaked through the clouds onto crowds taking pictures of their boys and shushing babies in the stands.
A local pastor was called on to pray over the opening, and right there in the public park, in front of God and the mayor, she prayed in Jesus’ name. Then, the Mayor himself gave his own welcome, leading the crowd in the National Anthem before throwing the first pitch.
It didn’t even make the local paper.
After the pomp and circumstance of opening day, the teams all played exhibition games, giving each player a chance to bat, marking the finish by counting minutes rather than innings. There weren’t winners or losers, just nervous, excited boys, and doting families and friends.
We were there off and on throughout the day supporting our son, visiting with friends and family, and being part of the community. Though my husband had been there and done that before—not only last year with son number two who is the current baseball player, but also with son number one in years past—this was my first opening day and I wasn’t without my mistakes. I wore sandals in the morning when it was much too cool. The jacket I grabbed for the afternoon was much too thin. And three dollars was probably way too much to give our youngest son for the concession stand.
But before the crowds dwindle too much – this year was must smaller than last, my husband noticed – and before our sons have out-grown Little League – we have only two more years unless our youngest takes a sudden interest in the sport – I got to be part of a Frankfort tradition.
The sponsor of our son’s team owns the local funeral home, and he met up with the boys at the park while the team posed for pictures. He brought an album with him filled with photos of all the teams he has sponsored over the years, dozens of teams each year since the 1950s.
And there he was again this year, not just writing a check, but showing up, investing in the young people of his town, making a difference.
Maybe this should have been front-page news after all.
When it was all over – at least our part – we celebrated at the local Dairy Queen, nibbling fries and salads, burgers and Blizzards. The rain was really threatening by then, though we were relieved it had held off on our account.
Now, the real games begin. Bring on the stats and scores, the winners and losers, the slide-stained pants and sweat-ringed caps. Batter up!
Photo by mistycabal, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.