FULTON, NY – “Welcome to the 17th season, 2018 opening day of Fulton Little League!”
Vice president of Fulton Little League Dave Webber greeted an enormous crowd on Saturday’s (April 28) chilly opening day of the 2018 baseball and softball season.
Eager players lined the third and first base lines at Kiwanis Ball Park while Weber, Fulton Little League president John Florek and Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. gave the season’s opening remarks.
In his eighth season with the program, Weber took some time to thank the many volunteers, coaches, sponsors, parents, and kids whose involvement keeps the program running at a steady level of participation.
“We have been able to continue our program at about the same level each year despite the decline of the city’s population from losing industry through the years. That really says a lot about the community, the parents, the coaches and the kids,” Weber said.
This year, the program totals 24 teams; three softball teams and 21 baseball teams, one more than last year.
Florek, introduced by Webber as “the founder, originator, and heart and soul of the program,” noted that aside from the steady participation, several things have changed for Fulton Little League throughout its 17 seasons.
Florek described the conditions of the fields in the first year of the program, merely a shell of what the fields are today.
New infields, fences, dugouts, scoreboards, snack bar, batting cage, and portable pitching mounds are just a few of the vast improvements the league has granted throughout the past 17 years.
All improvements are credited to several successful fundraisers and even allowed Fulton Little League and Fulton Kiwanis to make a joint purchase of a $12,000 field grooming equipment this year.
The ability to raise funds for the upkeep of the city’s youth baseball and softball program is yet another testament to the community’s support of Fulton Little League, Florek said.
An example of such support comes from Fulton’s Mayor Woodward, he continued.
“He always supports youth activities and anything related to our youth. I don’t know anyone that loves this city more,” Florek said.
“It’s an honor and a privilege for me to be here today entering the 17th year of Little league. I can’t tell you how important it is for the Fulton community to have this program and all the other youth programs we have. I am deeply grateful for all the coaches, sponsors and volunteers that make this possible. We’ve come through some pretty hard times, I think we’re heading to better times but everyone that’s been involved in this program has hung in all those hard years and not only hung in, but made it better – improved it considerably,” Woodward said.
The program is important to the community, he said, because of the many valuable lessons it offers the players.
“In these times, these youth are learning more than baseball. They’re learning how to get along in the world, they’re learning sportsmanship, they’re learning something besides sitting behind a computer, they’re learning how to interact with each other face to face and that’s so very important today,” Woodward finished.
With that, long-time volunteer Larry King was selected to throw the season’s opening pitch, chosen because he “has been a part of the program since day one – a coach then, and a coach now.”
The national anthem flooded the speakers of the fields before players finally heard their long-awaited opening signal, “Play Ball!”