Is there any greater day of hope and joy than the first day of the baseball season? I’m not talking about that great day in April when the Major League Baseball season officially commences, but something possibly even greater because of the ages of the participants involved, the first day of Little League baseball.
(Note: I am the official team reporter for my son’s little league team, the Coastside Builders. I realize the details of his first official day of competition may not be the most compelling reading to some, but hey, it’s my blog!)
Saturday, March 18, on a windswept and chilly but sunny day, over 200 kids from a score or more of teams ranging from ages 7 to 14, lined up on Smith Field #3 in Half Moon Bay for the annual opening day ceremony. The teams were arranged like spokes in a wheel radiating out from the infield from the youngest to the oldest going left to right. Our son Jeremy, proudly wearing his full uniform for the first time with the #2 on his jersey and the name of his team, the Coastside Builders, on his cap, eagerly awaited the announcement of his name and his turn to round the bases along with each and every child in their turn. There were the occasional nervous stumbles, the caps falling off, and one of the older teams chose to show their maverick spirit by running the bases in the wrong direction. When everyone had their time in the spotlight, the call rang out to “Play Ball!” and the teams, all undefeated and with limitless potential, dispersed to play their first games of the season.
The festivities had been delayed a full week due to wet weather and the schedule makers had added a wrinkle by having the Coastside Builders play two games on this happy day. The first contest began only a half hour after the ceremony and pitted the Builders against the squad from Beach House Inn. CB was the home team and took the field first. First time manager Robert Phillips had put together a fine defensive lineup. Brandon Gutierrez donned the catcher’s gear while Anthony Klingele took the pitcher’s position. Setting up the infield were Gunnar Vangent at third, Antonio Lopez at shortstop,Collin Merwin at seond base and Daniel Harris at first base. The outfield was composed of Quentin Fukui, Robert Phillips, Cullum Phillips and our own Jeremy MacKinnon in right. Christian Donohoe was the super sub to start the game.
The first day of Little League is customarily a mess at this level as the kids are just getting used to the fundamentals of baseball. It was clear from the start that the Builders came prepared to play. Beach House Inn managed a single base runner in the first inning, a single by Dante di Napoli to shortstop. Antonio was busy from the start with two force outs at second base to finish the inning, then the Beach House squad took the field. BHI was composed of Dante, Davis Ladd, Ben Cohen, Evan Quirk, Kevin Welch, Jacson Wooliver, Alec and Alden McGregor, John and James Nydam, and Andrew Morrell. The Coastside Builders got on the scoreboard fast, as an infield single by Collin, followed by an RBI double by Antonio a whack by Daniel scored Antonio from second.
The Builders held their 2-0 lead in the second inning despite one of the hardest hit balls all day, a line shot to center by Kevin Welch which was fielded well by the builders outfield squad to hold Kevin to a single.
The bottom of the second featured Jeremy’s first official base hit of the season, a sharp ground ball single to the second base hole which he beat out and took second base on an errant throw. Another grounder to the pitcher advanced Jeremy to third where he remained for an inning ending strikeout. The top of the third featured more efficient defense by the builders, allowing only a single baserunner on an infield single by James. In the bottom of the third the Builders threatened but did not score due to some nice glovework by Beach House Inn. The left fielder handled Antonio’s fly ball for one out and the shortstop made a nice snag of a hard grounder for another. In the top of the fourth, Beach house got singles from Dante and Ben but could not convert them to runs as the Builders defense held firm. The bottom half of the fourth featured more excellent glove action from the Beach House shorstop as he snagged a hard liner from Brandon to end the inning.
Beach House finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth, as a single by Kevin was turned into a run by Alec and Alden continuing the single parade. Brandon made a nice unassisted putout at second base to end the inning. Carrying a precarious 2-1 lead into the bottom half of the fifth, the Builders got singles from Christian and Collin to set the table for the big boppers Antonio and Daniel, who drove runners in with the help of aggressive baserunning to up the lead to 4 to 1 going into the final inning. In the top half of the sixth, after two quick groundouts to Gunnar and Antonio, Dante got his third hit of the game and Davis followed with a single. In fitting fashion for a game characterized by solid defense, Antonio ended the game by snagging a hard line drive to end the inning and the game. The Coastside Builders had won a hard fought contest to start the season 1-0!
Both teams showed good sportsmanship by doing the “good game” routine, slapping hands in single file progression by one another and then both teams took off for the snack bar with great grins of glee anticipating hot dogs, nachos, etc. Does anybody really lose when you get a free hot dog at the end?
The Coastside Builders had to wait almost an entire hour to take the field again. This time, Coastal Kitchen Design was their foe. The manager was Dave Anderson, an excellent coach who Jeremy had had the pleasure of playing under in fall ball, and could be trusted to have a first-rate team. CKD was the home team so they took the field first. Jason Fields, Chase Lawson, Carson and Hunter Murison formed the oufield, while Sam King, Carson Smith, Tommy Nuno, and Phillip Anderson formed the infield. Jacob Penner was on the mound while Andy Goldbach donned the tools of ignorance (catcher’s gear). Ivan De Leon, Palmer Nelso, and Cody James started the game as super subs.
The Coastside Builders started the game with some immediate fireworks; singles by Collin and Robert were followed by a powerful double by Antonio to drive in two runs. Daniel followed by driving in Antonio with another single and the Builders were up 3-0. The CKD squad followed up this effort with some fireworks of there own. Ivan, Palmer, and Jason got singles to load the bases, Jeremy fielding the third hit on a single bounce and getting the ball to the infield quickly to hold the runners from scoring. A fielder’s choice grounder to short resulted in two runs in. Following that, however, solid defense limited the damage and the score was 3-2 Builders going into the second.
The Builders began the second inning on a promising note with a single by Quentin and a sacrifice grounder by Jeremy pushing Quentin to second. A smart play by Tommy Nuno ended the threat, retiring Quentin on a forceout. CKD then went three up three down to end the second. The top of the third was another big inning for the Builders. Collin started it off with a single to left. Robert had a swinging bunt single, followed by a hard hit to left by Antonio scoring Collin and sending Robert to third base. Daniel followed that up with a single stretched to two bases by an errant throw, and Gunnar came through with a shot to second base resulting in two more runs batted in. The Coastside Builders had stretched their lead to 7-3 over Coastal Kitchen Design. CKD made things interesting in the bottom of the innning after two hits by Chase and Carson Murison and a single by Ivan to chase home Chase with their fourth run. The fourth inning was all defense with the exception of ta single by Sam in the bottom of the inning.
The top of the fifth featured only a single by Daniel, but in the bottom of the inning CKD’s bats got restless again. Singles by Tommy and Carson Smith put runners on the corners and Tommy scored on a grounder to short, but that was all for Coastal Kitchen Design and the score was 7-5. Three strikeouts ended the Builders’ half of the sixth and it was down to one final chance for CKD. Anthony put the lights out almost unassisted, handling two grounders and a pop up to end the game and put the Coastside Builders all alone in first place with a 2-0 record.