Baseball Players And Fans Open Season Patriotically

The Braves, Red Sox and Orioles took to O'Malley field Saturday. Eventhough most of them were a little more than knee-high, these ballplayers, and their fans made a big show of patriotism at the opening ceremony of the 2003 Long Beach Youth Baseball League. Long Beach students sang the National Anthem, and Colorguard NMCB 1 marched out to centerfield as the ceremony began.

Hundreds of local youngsters marched out to O'Malley Field for the first of many games. However, no one at the ceremony overlooked the sacrifices that are being made overseas.

"We remember that there are mothers and fathers, who above, anything else, love to be here supporting their children in this athletic country, but duty, honor and country has called them to a desert far away," said a local pastor, before the games began.

Many of the youngsters at the games Saturday are aspiring ballplayers. They say they know their parents' mission overseas is what preserves their freedom and allows them the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Proud parents cheered on their little ones as they ran out on the field, but because of recent deployments...many families were one--even two--members short.

"It's typically a family affair for us, and my husband's usually here with us," Nicole Smith said. "He's not here to be with us on opening day, but I've got to keep going."

The ones who are left behind say the separation's tough enough, but knowing their spouses will miss out on a lot of their children's firsts, is almost unbearable. When Nicole's husband returns, he'll find out his son's arm has grown stronger, and his daughter Kaylene has lost her two front teeth, but he'll be glad to know her dreams are still the same as when he left.

"I want to be a star baseball player," said Kaylene Smith.

"A lot of the guys are e-mailing and calling home, wanting to know how the support is at home," said Ranae Poole, of the Long Beach Youth Baseball League. "It's important, very important, to know that we're supporting them."

If the decor and talent shown at O'Malley field are any indication, our troops overseas can feel confident they'll have a happy homecoming, and will return to find youngsters one step closer to their major league dreams.

Leaders of the Long Beach Youth Baseball league are now trying to get yellow patches to put on the sleeves of little leaguers' uniforms as another reminder of our troops overseas.