By Alex Khalifeh (JMU Class of 18)
"We ask parents to help to help us provide the same type of memories I received. Help them remember their little league days with a smile. Something they would be proud of, and say they were the best times of their lives"
After months of anticipation, opening day for HLLA had finally arrived. It was a beautiful day, seventy degrees and sunny with almost no breeze to make for a great atmosphere. The events of the day began around 8:00 a.m., and there were games and activities for parents and players to participate in. Sheetz provided donuts and juice, Bojangle’s and Buffalo Wild Wings had their tents set up and had some interactive games going on. Volunteers helped out as well for face painting and moon bounce. During this time, I got a chance to ask parents and coaches about their expectations for the upcoming season.
“Basically for my girls to learn the sport, hone in on some skills, and hopefully get them prepared for the next level,” said coach David Rodriguez of the Havoc, major softball team. He has been a coach for four years and an active father for fifteen. I attended one of the recent practices for the Mets and I was impressed with the care and passion which Rodriguez exhibits when coaching his players. Even when practice had ended, he was still willing to help the players with their batting form for however long they needed it.
All parents also looked very excited. “I’m excited to see how well we perform against teams outside our area,” said Tina Puffenbarger, a board member and mother of Drew Bowman who plays for the major Reds team. Major baseball teams are competing with teams from outside of the Harrisonburg area this year. I then talked to Connor Reid of the minor Orioles, who made a bold prediction of before his game. When asked how many home runs he was going to hit, he replied without hesitation “probably 3” with smile.
By around 11:00 am, the players and coaches started the pre-game ceremony by announcing the names of every single player who is participating in HLLA this season. The players then proceeded to do a lap around the bases giving high fives to almost everyone in attendance. As an added treat, the Duke Dog even made an appearance to cheer on the players! However, while some of the players welcomed him with a hug, others ran away in terror. The ceremony then proceeded with the national anthem, and opening pitch by Coach Mike Engle. Watch Coach Engle's ceremonial first pitch below.
”We ask parents to help to help us provide the same type of memories I received. Help them remember their little league days with a smile. Something they would be proud of, and say they were the best times of their lives” said Dean Warlitner, a long-time president of HLLA during an emotional speech about the support he received during his little league days. With this in mind, it is clear how games like baseball teach children skills like teamwork and comradery that is unmatched. I know when I was a kid; some of my best memories and lessons were learned just playing ball with my friends.
Come show your support and check out some of this week’s game. There will be games every day at Purcell Park until June 10. Also, check the bat-a thon on May 21. Bat-a-thon is HLLA's biggest annual fundraiser that involves all our member families. Each player is expected to raise $50 in donations from friends and supporters in our community and beyond. Money raised is converted into points that can be used to win prizes on Bat-a-thon day.
HLLA Story is an official blog site of the Harrisonburg Little League Association. All contents are managed by the Bluestone Communications, a student-run public relations agency at James Madison University. Please contact Kevin Leaven (firstname.lastname@example.org), an account executive of the Bluestone Communications., if you have any questions about the blog or the stories.