Opening Day ceremonies have been a tradition for baseball leagues from Little League to the Majors for as long as baseball has been played. A parade through town, the national anthem played for all to stand and respect the American flag, a ceremonial first pitch, fans and families cheering players with vibrant enthusiasm, players with a brand new game jersey and hat just brimming with anticipation and excitement to start the season. After months of planning and on the most incredible weather day we have seen in weeks, the North Kingstown Wickford Little League’s Opening Day ceremonies finally took place on Saturday, April 14th.
On a gorgeous Saturday morning, players, coaches, parents, and volunteers lined up at Wickford Middle School and in Wickford Village accompanied by North Kingstown’s Police and Fire Department. In recent years, both of our town’s safety departments have served as volunteers to escort the league’s parade walkers through the Village of Wickford. And, on behalf of NKW, we appreciate the time you volunteer and your dedication to making North Kingstown a safe place for families. The big, red fire engine has always been a crowd favorite, especially with our younger ball players. The parade started right at 9 am, with players and coaches talking and laughing and sharing stories as they made their way through Wickford Village, up the hill to Wilson Park.
Volunteers from North Kingstown Wickford spent the morning lining the baselines, home plate, and raking the Major’s field at Wilson Park to make it look perfect. Our concession stand, open to the public, was ready and waiting with hot chocolate, snacks, and drinks. Greeting the parade at Wilson Park was a large audience of families, friends, sponsors, and local supporters of youth sports in North Kingstown. Players and coaches continued onto the Majors field, while other parade goers took their place on the bleachers, next to the dugouts, and around the fence perimeter of the field.
NKW League President Dr. Arnie Sarazen presided over the Opening Day ceremonies. Dr. Sarazen started the proceedings by thanking key volunteers with the North Kingstown Wickford Little League. He recognized local and state government representatives on hand including Robert Craven, Julie Casimiro, and North Kingstown Town Manager Ralph Mollis. Dr. Sarazen took a moment to mark the passing of Liz Tully, a super volunteer for North Kingstown American, who had recently passed away. Dr. Sarazen also commented on our dedication as a league to making the game fun and engaging for players and families, for years to come. Former Wickford Little Leaguer and current guitarist for the Lazy Gray, Spencer Roby, played a spirited and crowd pleasing rendition of the National Anthem on his guitar. (side note, this was a very proud moment for me, his father). And then, Dr. Sarazen welcomed Town Manager Mollis out to throw the ceremonial first pitch. It was a perfect strike to catcher Ian McGrath, an All-Star with North Kingstown Wickford Little League.
After the Opening Day Ceremonies, North Kingstown High School baseball coach Tom Pacia and his NKHS baseball team held a clinic for all levels. Coach Pacia set up stations and drills for hitting, pitching, fielding, and base running. The kids got to see, up close, players who as recent as 3 years ago or less, were Little Leaguers themselves. The parents I spoke to were thrilled at the way Coach Pacia and his players worked with the NKW kids. Special thanks to Coach Pacia and all the NKHS players who volunteered their time for the baseball clinic. Good luck this season!!!
Someone commented to me after the parade that this was a perfect day for North Kingstown. The parade, months in planning and delayed one week due to weather, was just perfect. The kids looked happy, the parents looked happy, the coaches looked happy, a perfect situation to promote the game of baseball. Dr. Sarazen was the perfect emcee for the Opening Ceremonies. Spencer Roby’s version of the National Anthem, and the fact that he was once a Wickford Little League player, was a perfect way to honor our country through music. The North Kingstown Police and Fire Department were the perfect choice to lead our Little Leaguers through town. Coach Tom Pacia and his NKHS players put on a perfect clinic for our players. And Mr. Mollis’ strike to Ian McGrath was a perfect pitch to officially kick off our season. I agree, this was a perfect day for North Kingstown baseball’s inaugural season of “One Town, One League.” We hope you will come out to Wilson Park, Signal Rock, McGinn Park this year to cheer on our rising star baseball players.
The RIBBE is The Rhode Island Baseball Experience. It is promoting the game of baseball here in the great state of Rhode Island for the entire baseball world to see. The RIBBE is positive stories, photos, videos, and responsible social media posts. The RIBBE is an information resource for families looking for an AAU team or a summer camp or a great place to buy a first baseman’s mitt. The RIBBE is a network of coaches, tournament directors, parents, leagues, and baseball junkies whose passion of the game of baseball is unquestioned. I believe that providing expert analysis, information and directions to ballfields, and coaching advice from some of the top RI baseball minds will help promote the game of baseball here in RI to a whole new level.