At 11 a.m. sharp, public address announcer Joe Thompson took to the microphone Saturday to kick off a ritual that has been taking place in Hermiston since 1964 – the opening day ceremonies for Hermiston Little League.
Thompson began the day’s events by introducing each of the teams. As he called off each name, the players – ranging from 5 year olds up to high school age – took the field one at a time. By the time the last team was introduced, the players – lined up in single file – spread from the left field foul line to the right field foul line.
More than 600 players divided among 54 teams make up the 2013 Hermiston Little League and just about all of them were at Saturday’s opening day ceremonies. Hermiston Girl Scout Troops 51444 and 51445 performed the morning’s flag ceremony and before the first games were played, a couple of honors were announced.
Thompson called Little League Coach Jeff Gritz to home plate to announce he was being inducted into the 2013 Hermiston Little League Hall of Fame. Gritz is not only a Little League coach, but serves on the Hermiston Little League Board of Directors as league vice president. He has also managed or coached a Little League All-Star team each of the past six years and helped secure a $40,000 grant for Little League to provide safety netting and maintenance equipment.
“He’s always the first one out and the last one to leave on field day,” said Thompson. In fact, Gritz was among the volunteers who spent several hours last month preparing the Field of Dreams for the upcoming season.
Also honored Saturday was Hermiston Little League President Dave Caldwell, who was named the 2013 Volunteer of the Year. Caldwell, too, was among the volunteers working last month to get the fields in shape for the season.
Like all good volunteers, Caldwell and his crew were running around the complex Saturday morning making sure everything went according to plan. With the ceremonies to oversee, the Volunteer of the Year award to receive and more than 1,000 people in attendance Saturday, Caldwell had a lot on his plate.
“It’s a mad house today – in a good way,” he said. “It’s great to see all the kids in uniform ready to play.”
Then, at precisely 11:25 a.m., Thompson uttered two more words that signaled both the end of the opening day ceremonies and the beginning of the 2013 Hermiston Little League season: