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'Opening day is always special'

Many former South Mountain Little League members help to open season

April 10, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Lucas Hutzell, 6, left, poses for his mother Kristy Hutzell's camera before he walked on the field for opening day ceremonies at South Mountain Little League Saturday morning in Boonsboro. Lucas is on the Subway T-Ball team.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO -- Minutes have no place in the game of baseball.

There are no timeouts, no running out the clock. The game lasts exactly as long as needed.

For Brad Keller, the game has lasted a lifetime.

Keller played from 1976 to 1980 for the South Mountain Little League.

At that time, his father was the league president and teams played at Shafer Memorial Park.

The lessons he learned weren't just about baseball, Keller said. They were life lessons.

"The players, the coaches -- we became a family," he said. "We looked out for each other, we cared about each other. Today, my best friends are the guys I played with in Little League."

Decades later, Keller still is a part of youth baseball.

He serves on the South Mountain Little League board of directors and is a team manager. He also is the proud father of a Little League player.

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Keller was among the hundreds of people who participated Saturday morning in the league's opening day ceremonies at Murphy Field.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Little League baseball for families of the southern Washington County region, league President Diane Crampton said.

The games no longer are played at Shafer Memorial Park. About 30 years ago, the league moved to a complex off Monroe Road.

This season will mark another change, with the opening of the junior/senior field at the same complex, Crampton said. In previous years, the junior and senior teams played at Chestnut Grove Park.

Crampton said the South Mountain Little League has 19 teams and about 200 youths who participate in the program.

Forty years ago, not many people could have envisioned how much the baseball program would grow, she said.

"I think it's like 'Field of Dreams.' If you build it, they will come," she said. "We hope that tradition and legacy continues for our community."

Current and past town leaders attended Saturday's opening ceremonies, including former mayor Stuart Mullendore, who threw out the first pitch. Mullendore helped create the current baseball complex and said, "It was wonderful, after all these years, to see how much the league has grown. The dedication of so many people has made it what it is today."

During opening day ceremonies, Denny Hockensmith, the South Mountain Little League's umpire in chief, received a plaque in honor of his selection as an umpire for this year's Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

"Today's game is just as important as any game at the World Series," Hockensmith said.

Hockensmith said he played for Valley Little League in 1959, "so you see how long I've been involved with baseball. I'll be 60 this year and the kids keep me young."

"Opening day is always special," said Kim Chambers, the league's auxiliary chairwoman. "The kids get to parade out on to the field, they have their names announced on the loudspeaker. The kids love it. Everybody loves it. It's the start of a whole new season."

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