Youth Baseball Makes Post Katrina Return To Long Beach

"People are really happy to be here today, says Katrina Woodward, as she waits in line at the concession stand at O'Malley Field. "We didn't think we were going to make. We did."

It's hard to believe what a difference few short months and a lot of help can make.

"If you had asked me seven months ago would we be here today, I would have said no way," says Long Beach Youth Baseball President Bill Hurtzog.

It was back in mid January when Hurtzog put out the call for help in getting O'Malley Field in playing shape in time for opening day.

"Sheriff George Payne called me and said Bill, I saw you on WLOX. And I said yes sir. He said what can I do to help you."

The answer was, a lot.

But that's just what this place got from the Harrison County Sheriff's Department as well as other volunteer group's and individuals.

"Like the Valley Response coming in and helping," says Dewayne Bush, Board Chairman for the Long Beach Recreation Department. "Two or three groups of kids on spring break coming in. It's great stuff man."

Saturday they opened their season on time, on their home fields, and of course all together.

And along with the fields, the players have returned as well.

"Last year we had 409 kids," says Hurtzog. "This year we have 406. We've actually have added 2 teams. We have 12 T-Ball teams."

A triumphant return, Youth League officials say is as important to the parents as the players.

"I know they've got a lot going on too, but it going to help mom and dad get back to a sense of normalcy also," says Bush.

Something that for Long Beach residents, is as welcomed as warm relaxing day at the ball park.