By Ryan Kaczmarski
It was an opening day like no other that had come before it. On the morning of May 5, Rocky River Little League celebrated its 60th anniversary in style.
The festivities kicked off with a parade from Rocky River City Hall all the way to the baseball fields behind Goldwood Primary School. The parade featured all 24 teams (12 major league and 12 minor league), the Rocky River City Council and Steve “Rocky River Pirate” Kershner tossing candy to the enthusiastic crowd that lined the street.
All teams had a chance to play an inning on opening day, with each batter getting a chance at the plate.
The celebration was about more than just baseball.
“It’s 60 years of giving back to the community,” Bob Stoddard, a trustee on the RRLL board of directors, said. “Every year we get together and it’s a complete volunteer effort. You have the managers of the teams who are volunteer dads. We come out to the fields six or seven Saturdays prior to the beginning of the season and just work the fields. We painted bleachers and just made the fields as good as we can for the kids.”
“It’s a complete community effort,” said RRLL President Joe Carozzoni. “There have been a lot of people who have dedicated their time to do the work here, and it just keeps growing and growing every year.”
The fact that RRLL has had this level of success for such a long time can be thought of as just amazing, with all of the other sports and activities that youths have available to them.
“Lacrosse leagues and travel leagues have been popping up all over the place pulling players away,” Stoddard said. “One of the reasons why RRLL is so appealing to people, is because every week you show up on the same fields. You don’t have to get in your car and travel 20 miles to find out your game has been rained out.”
“We’ve always worked in tandem with the other sports to accommodate with the schedules and things like that,” Carozzoni said.
All the fields that RRLL uses have been professionally upgraded to be self-maintaining.
“Whenever there’s a downpour, and everyone else is cancelling their games, we’re playing ours,” Stoddard added. “The water just rolls off of the field surface.
“It’s so key, because when these boys come (here) they come to play.”
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve spent $35,000-plus improving these fields,” said RRLL board of trustees member Tom Kraus. “That includes fencing, new grass and a complete rehab of the bleachers.”
The day would have not been complete without the busy concession stands and the smell of “the best burgers in the world” being grilled between the two fields.
As the teams lined the outfield grass – stretching from third base to first base – and the National Anthem played, one could not think of two more appropriate words to say. Play Ball!