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Little Leagues swing into season

April 04, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- To some, it didn't quite feel like baseball weather Saturday morning, but local Little Leagues swung into the season anyway.

At Federal's field in the north end of town, some players did jumping jacks in the outfield as the league's board members and organizers were introduced.

Everyone stood at attention, hats in hands, however, when 12-year-old Caitlin Cremins sang the national anthem. Her brother, 10-year-old Thomas Cremins, plays for one of the teams, Caitlin said.

Federal's opening ceremony also honored last year's Federal Little League 11-12 All-Stars, Mid-Atlantic Region Champions that went to the Little League World Series. Those players have all moved on since they aged out of the league.

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The league's 2008 champions, Exchange, received trophies Saturday morning.

Federal has about 200 players this year, including its minor league and T-ball players, said Michael Conrad, league president.

Brothers Malik, 10, and Preston Carey are playing for the Kiwanis team this year.

Malik's goal for the season? To hit more home runs than his brother. It's a lofty goal, as Preston, 12, said he wants to hit more than 10 home runs this year.

Emil Hawkins' son, Joshua, also plays for the Kiwanis team.

Joshua, 9, is playing in Federal's major leagues for the first time this year, his father said. Joshua started playing T-ball when he was young and "picked it up naturally. It's something he's really wanted to do," Emil Hawkins said.

He hopes Joshua learns teamwork, getting along with other kids and listening skills.

"You need to be coachable," Hawkins said.

Joshua, the youngest member of the team, also has a goal for the year.

"To see if I can make my career into baseball," he said. "I like playing with my teammates and having fun."

Over in the other dugout, players were ready for the season.

"Opening day, finally," 10-year-old Steven Purcell said to one of his friends. Steven is playing for the Exchange team for a second year.

"I like the sound of the bat. I like that you can hit it far," he said.

Steven's brother also plays for Exchange. Will Purcell, 11, wants to get his first hit this year, he said.

A few miles away, Maugansvile Little League's 300 players participated in their own opening ceremony.

After all the T-ball, minor league and major league players were introduced, they fell into two lines and applauded as two teams in the Challengers division entered the field.

After the singing of the national anthem, one of the Challengers players, 6-year-old Braydon Mongan, threw out the first pitch of Maugansville's season.

The Challengers is a program for 5- to 18-year-olds who have physical, mental or emotional disabilities that prevent them from playing in regular Little League, said Marty Lumms, coordinator of the Challengers.

"We adapt the game to fit the kids," Lumms said.

Some of the Challengers players use a tee, while others are pitched to, he said.

"Everybody bats, everybody hits," he said.

Maugansville Little League hosts the Challengers and by next year, all of the league's fields will be handicapped-accesible. The newly renovated dugouts now allow enough room for wheelchairs.

The Challengers teams, Dairy Queen and At Your Service, named for a lawn-care company, played the first game of the season. The Challengers don't hold practices and don't keep score, Lumms said.

Marissa Hageman, 6, has never played baseball before but is now on the Dairy Queen team. She sported a new pink mitt Saturday morning.

She practiced with some of her aunts and wanted to play on the team because she "was so excited," Marissa said.

Carol Benton of Fairplay said it's her son's second year playing baseball. Josh, 10, is also a member of the Challengers division.

Josh said he likes baseball because he gets to hit the ball hard and can eat Burger King food after the game.

"I think this is a wonderful chance for kids with handicaps," Carol Benton said. She said she got teary-eyed during the opening ceremony when the Challengers were introduced.

In Hagerstown, there was some trash talking before one of the first games of the season for American Little League.

One player could be heard saying, "look at your team, it's gross."

Joshua Main, 10, has been playing for five years. For him, "baseball is just about fun. It's not about winning or losing."

Joshua is on the FOP team, which on Saturday faced off against the Funkstown team.

Aaron Hudson, 9, plays for Funkstown. Saturday morning's ceremony was fun but "kinda cold," Aaron said.

The Valley, Conococheague and Hancock Little Leagues were also scheduled to have opening ceremonies this weekend.

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