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Opening Day at National Little League

April 24, 2010

by Tenny Snyder and Michael Bellizzi

ALBANY- Summer approaching can only mean one thing for the oldest Little League around – opening day.  Freshly groomed fields, newly painted dugouts and rookie little leaguers are a sure sign of the start of baseball at National Little League.

Players and parents gathered together at the Playdium around 10 a.m. Saturday to

Players line up on the outfield for opening day at National Little League

parade down to the ballpark.  An Albany fire truck and numerous patrol cars assisted the large group of kids and adults on their way to the field.

This year, some 250 boys and girls from ages 4 to 12 will play ball in the heart of the Pine Hills.

Jim Bennett, a coach for 16 years, now coaching World Wide Express, was more than thrilled for the arrival of baseball season.

“The significance of opening day for me is a time when I get to spend more time with my boys,” said Bennett, who still has one son, Will, playing at the majors level.

Celebrating its 59th season, the National Little League never skips a beat.  Between the parent volunteers, and community donations, the renowned field on Partridge and Providence is completely maintained and remains safe for the kids.

“God bless all the coaches and parents who take the time to do this and make it happen,”  said Chris Ringwald , of the National Little League fields. “It’s one of the great American sports.”

One parent volunteer, Roman Ginnan, is coaching the Playdium international team this season.

“We wait all winter for baseball to start. We look forward to it,” Ginnan said “We have a lot of fun and love playing with the kids.

“Playing baseball is part of growing up as far as I’m concerned ,” Ginnan added. “Little league baseball is a chance for the community to come together three or four times a week …. which it wouldn’t do otherwise.”

Some families at National have generations of history there.

Take Herman Thomas, who has contributed in almost every volunteer position at the field.

“I just enjoy giving back to the community, and at a league that I played at when I was 10, 11, and 12- years-old,” Thomas said. “It brings a lot of joy to me.  There is nothing like Little League. What it does is build special memories. You’ll be old and gray but still talking about hitting a home run or the players you grew up with. After a while it even becomes legendary.”

The league’s current president, Andrew Zampariolo:, has been involved for the last eight years.

“I think first we want the kids to have an environment that’s safe to play in,”  Zampariolo said. “Baseball is all the sports,  it’s the greatest team sport for kids to play. There’s nothing like the crack of a bat.”  -30-


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