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Halfway Little League opens 61st season

April 10, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Jim Adenhart, father of the late major league pitcher Nick Adenhart, walks off the pitcher's mound Saturday after throwing out the first pitch during Halfway Little League's opening day at Nicholas James Adenhart Memorial Field.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

HALFWAY -- They came out just like he used to.

They dressed just like he did 15 years ago.

They were enthusiastic about playing baseball, just the way he had been his entire life.

The new generation of Halfway Little League players -- three divisions strong -- made its debut Saturday while standing on Nicholas James Adenhart Memorial Field, named for the league alumnus who started his climb to the majors on that very field.

The vast majority of players probably didn't know much about Nick Adenhart, the Williamsport High School graduate and Los Angeles Angels pitcher who died April 9, 2009, in a car crash in Fullerton, Calif., shortly after making the best start of his Major League career.

But the Halfway organization tried to make sure the players had the chance to feel like Adenhart as it opened its 61st season.

The league brought in Rod Steiner, Adenhart's high school coach and a former Halfway coach, to work on the field and bring it up to "professional" quality.

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"We put in a lot of time on the field," said Jack Jenkins, president of Halfway Little League. "We started last October, and I learned a lot about field work from Rod. When Rod and I got together, we said that since the field was named for Nick, we wanted it to be as perfect as possible."

Steiner manicured the infield into pristine shape until the very last moment before joining the team he helps coach for its introduction.

Each player and coach from the 15 teams in major, minor and T-ball divisions had "NA" stitched on the side of their caps in Adenhart's honor. They took turns trotting out to left field during the ceremony, getting high-fives along the way. Major league players received Angels caps, which were donated by the Major League club.

It all brought back memories.

"I remember when Nick was here playing T-Ball," Jenkins said. "Everyone was talking about the Adenhart kid. I came over and saw him jack a shot into the trees off the tee. You don't see too many like that. Then, when he was 8, he was already a man among boys."

After the festivities were over, the league turned to honor Adenhart. Members of the Adenhart family, including Nick's father, Jim, were on hand for the event.

"They really wanted to make this field feel like the major leagues," Jim Adenhart said. "I came out after work this morning to check things out. I come out here regularly."

Adenhart, who visits the park nearly every morning after work, took the field where he had spent so many of his son's formative years to throw the season's ceremonial first pitch.

He wore one of Nick's Angels caps and his dress uniform pants, along with an Angels pullover that the team gave him and a pair of baseball spikes.

"They are size 14," Adenhart said. "I have a couple of socks stuffed in them so they will fit."

He made two pitching attempts, replaying his son's motion in his mind.

"I had been practicing and warming up on breaks at work," Adenhart said.

He agreed to throw the pitch because Nick had spent seven years playing at Halfway, the longest stint of any park his son had participated on in his lifetime.

There were plenty of mementos to prove it.

A photo of Nick Adenhart pitching hangs on the center field fence. The league hung its championship banners, a few that Nick had helped win in the late 1990s, on the backstop while a list of all of the players hangs on the side of the press box.

"The turnout and the support here was great," Jim Adenhart said.

When it was all over, Halfway got down to business with a full slate of games beginning at noon. Things got back to normal.

Back to the way Nick Adenhart would have wanted them.

"We thought that when we dedicated the field last fall, no one had officially played on it yet," Jenkins said. "It was nice to see that Nick's family came out. It makes you feel like you did something right."

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