By Ryan Kaczmarski
Some clouds and a little rain did not keep the crowds away on Saturday morning, as the Rocky River Little League (RRLL) held its opening day parade and ceremony, marching down Hilliard Blvd. From the Rocky River City Hall to the fields behind Goldwood Primary School, celebrating 62 years of youth baseball.
The league is for children in grades 3-6, and boasts 22 teams, with more than 220 Rocky River families being involved.
“Rocky River Little League has been a great tradition here,” RRLL President Joe Carozzoni said. “It’s a collaborative effort between the city, the recreation department and a lot of volunteers.
“The big thing that has made this program so successful is that it is 100 percent run by volunteers. They come out and work the fields and manage the teams.”
The deep tradition that RRLL holds in the community can be seen directly, as there are multiple-generation players in the league every year.
“There are second- and even third-generation players here now, and the parents who have played in this league 30-35 years ago are coming back and coaching and managing, or otherwise just helping out and doing whatever is asked of them,” Carozzoni explained.
Each year, the league puts nearly every cent of fees collected back into making improvements to the field facilities and to make the experience better for the players involved.
“We’ve put a lot of capital expense back int o the fields – you can see how nice they are when you go up there,” he continued. “We made some renovations to the kitchen (to try to improve what can be already called the best burger in town), and did some fencing around the fields.
Everybody involved, from the city dignitaries on down to the players, has a hand in keeping RRLL a great success.
“The support from the community has been unbelievable,” Carozzoni stated. “Mayor (Pam Bobst) is always involved on opening day, and we have most of the city council members along with a couple judges and sponsors here, who are all participating in the parade.”
“This is a great community tradition,” Bobst said. “We are a community that is steeped in traditions, and little league is one of those traditions. During the next several weeks, into the summer, this is where much of the community will spend their time, whether they have a player or not, it brings the community together.
“Everybody wants to watch little league baseball, join together and even get a cheeseburger.”
Without team and league sponsors, the future of RRLL could be questionable at best.
“We just want to come out and show the city of Rocky River that we support all of the local sporting events,” Lori Yeager, owner of Sport Clips located on Detroit Road in Rocky River, said. “We got in contact with the president of the Rocky River Little League, and we were willing to do a co-promotion, where if people came out and get a haircut, we will donate money back into the league.
“We just strongly believe in the youth and sports in our city.”
Not only do the sponsors believe in giving back to the program, but a very special Rocky River High School student in Forrest Stoddard made it his personal goal, and the goal of earning his Eagle Scout rank, to raise funds for the league which he grew up playing in.
“My dad helps out a lot with Rocky River Little League, so I thought it would be a good project,” Stoddard said. “There can be so many ideas to have for your Eagle Scout project, and my dad recommended it, and I thought it would be a good idea. We put it together and got it done.”
Through Stoddard’s efforts, more than $1,900 in cash and donations were given to RRLL.
“I had no idea it would be so successful,” he noted. “I was not expecting that much help from other people, but we got the flyers out and communicated with people. We got it done, and it is awesome!”
Stoddard will be attending Kent State University in the fall, and plans on a major in business.