Thirty-five teams made up of over 500 players across four age divisions lined up along the shallow outfield grass of Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield last Friday evening to mark the opening of the Saipan Little League Baseball's 2013 season.
Master of ceremony Bob Coldeen introduced the crowd and then this year's field of teams, which include 16 Major League teams (ages 9 to 12), seven Junior League squads (ages 12 to 14), six Senior League squads (14 to 16), and six Big League teams (16 to 18).
The Saipan Southern High School's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Manta Ray Battalion then presented flags for the U.S. and CNMI anthems.
Upon the Retrieval of the Flags, pastor Dilise of the Grace Christian Assembly performed an invocation.
Welcoming remarks then ensued from Little League president Sen. Ray N. Yumul (IR-Saipan); Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's representative Rhonda Fleming Nogis, deputy secretary of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs; Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan; and little league vice president Sen. Ralph Torres (R-Saipan). Closing remarks were offered by Little League Baseball International's newly appointed CNMI district administrator Mike Borja.
Most of the remarks echoed thanks to parents and volunteers with reminders to the players to have fun, above all.
Added appreciation went out to Little League sponsors and donors; the association's board and umpire staff; Saipan Mayor Donald Flores and his office; Flores' son Darren, who provided the public announcement system; the Legislative Bureau; the 18th Legislature; DCCA's Sports & Recreation staff; and to the LG Twins Korean professional baseball team who apparently assisted with the field maintenance during its recent spring training visit.
Pastor Dilise returned to the plate for a Benediction after which volunteers from the crowd participated in the little league player and parent/volunteer pledges.
Local legend and Rep. Anthony Benavente (IR-Saipan) then took the mound and warmed up his arm as the teams exited the field in preparation for the ceremonial first pitch, which was ticketed as a battle between the house and senate.
Benavente dealt to Torres and struck him out in five pitches before Coldeen concluded the show.
Notably, the SLLB also announced that it is chartering an 18-and-under girls fast-pitch softball season in the coming weeks in conjunction with the Marianas Interscholastic Sports Organization. Participating teams include SSHS, Kagman High School, Marianas School, and Mount Carmel School.