Malibu Little League Opening Day

Ten-year-old Jonah Stern throws out the first pitch Saturday.

The 2014 season of Malibu Little League kicked off under sunny skies on a beautiful Saturday morning last weekend as parents, kids and coaches took part in a vibrant opening day ceremony at Bluffs Park.

MLL President Gregg Brock said he was glad to get the season underway with hundreds of Malibu parents and kids looking on.

“It’s a day these families will never forget,” Brock said.

Brandt Anderson, coach of the Major Dodgers, concurred with enthusiasm.

“It’s so beautiful out here (in Malibu), and it’s baseball.”

Tossing out the first pitch for the hardball competitions was Jonah Stern, whose twin brother plays in the Malibu Little League Major Division. Stern recently returned from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he is battling cancer and on his way to completing chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Stern came out on the mound with determination, throwing a strike right into the catcher’s mitt.

After the first pitch, all the players were organized with their teams to be introduced. Each team recognized their coaches, team moms and team sponsors, who set up tents throughout the rest of opening day as teams played a total of 10 games on a busy opening Saturday.

There are three levels of play for both softball and baseball (AA, AAA, Majors). This gives children of different age groups the opportunity to play against same age competition.

After winning their third consecutive “Majors” championship, the Phillies look to defend their title along with the AAA White Sox and AA Tigers for hardball this season.

While most little league participants take part in hardball, league officials are excited this year to see an uptick in softball participation.

“Softball is growing, we went from 30 to 65 girls this year,” League Vice-President and Softball Commissioner Russ Purtell said.

Throughout the tenure of the MLL, overall participation has fluctuated and there was a worry of the possibility of lower numbers this year. Opening day showed that was not going to be a problem.

“We’ve been worried about losing kids but we have great numbers this year,” Coaching Coordinator Rick Cruse said.

The event originally was slated for the previous Saturday, however the heavy thunderstorms that inundated the Southland caused it to be postponed.

“We were patient,” Brock said.

With the opening festivities out of the way, the ballplayers fanned across the field and the pings of aluminum on leather rang out as more than a half-dozen games were played.

As the yearly ritual played out, several coaches spoke highly of little league’s importance to community building and interaction.

“Youth sports is the community,” Purtell said.

Being a dad himself, Anderson said the league strengthens ties both within families and in Malibu overall.

“You see kids interacting with their dads and getting to know the other kids,” Andersen said.

He also mentioned that the kids know each other at school because of the MLL and they come to these fields in a safe environment.

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