Under clear skies, sunshine and the chatter of excited kids, decked out in their uniform best, Yucaipa Valley National Little League opened its 2019 season Saturday at the 13th Street Sports Complex.
“We finally made it. The rain stopped for a day, it’s a beautiful day,” said Robby Evans, league president, as he welcomed teams, board members, parents and the community to opening day on March 16.
After the playing of the National Anthem, Evans introduced the board of directors, thanked sponsors and talked a little bit about last year’s all-star teams and the upcoming season. Players recited the Little League pledge. Then it was time to announce this year’s teams, which stood assembled in the outfield.
“Is everybody ready for baseball?” Evans asked.
“Yay!” players and parents yelled in reply.
Evans began with the oldest players – the seniors, juniors and the new 50/70 division for 11- to 13-year-olds. The 50/70 represents the increased lengths to the pitching mound and along the base paths, raising the level of difficulty.
“It’s a lot more challenging. We are trying to keep kids from leaving and going to travel ball,” Evans said about the new division, which includes interleague play between National and American teams.
After introducing minors and farm teams, it was time for the youngest players to step up to the plate.
“It’s time for the T-ball parade,” Evans said, making the call.
Each team was announced and then players trotted around the diamond, low-fiving all the other players who had lined up between first and third bases. Big smiles spread across little faces as players rounded the bases.
Then it was time to play ball.
Earlier, Evans reminded everyone that part of the league’s agreement with the city of Yucaipa to build the baseball fields is for the league to install a paved parking lot and lights. To help finance those improvements, the league is trying something different this season.
“This year, we’ve done something new and unique,” Evans said. “We’ve partnered with Bandwagon World. They have put together team T-shirts. They have sweatshirts, T-shirts, women’s shirts, men’s shirts, kids’ shirts, all kinds of unique shirts … They are also giving a portion of the proceeds back to the league.”
Those interested can go to the Yucaipa Valley National Little League website and click on the link. The T-shirts and sweatshirts can be customized with players’ names and numbers added on the back.
“This is the first year we are trying it,” said Evans, who came up with idea after years of seeing parents and family members struggle to find a place to order team T-shirts. “I think it will be a good partnership and it will be easy.”
For more information on Yucaipa Valley National Little League or to order T-shirts, visit www.yvnll.org