OCEANSIDE — Feb. 14 through Feb. 28 marks five Opening Days for Oceanside ball leagues.
Oceanside Girls Softball kicked off the season with Opening Day at Lake Park Feb. 14.
Oceanside National Little League is next to celebrate the start of the season for its 300 players with ceremonies at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park Feb. 21.
“I can smell baseball in the air,” league President Tina Uriarte said.
Opening Day ceremonies will introduce teams, and celebrate last year’s championship teams and homerun players. League board members and city council members will be introduced and share words of encouragement for players.
Two former players, who now play high school ball, will lead the traditional recitation of the Little League pledge.
“It has a hero aspect,” Uriarte said. “It helps players see themselves at the next level.”
This year recognition will be given to a league empire, coach and parent who passed away. A banner and dedication will celebrate their lives.
Following opening ceremonies 105-year-old Oceanside resident Agnes McKee will throw out the first pitch. She also threw a ceremonial pitch at a Padres game in July.
Uriarte said the upcoming Little League season has some significant rule changes that allow players more time to play.
She added as first year president her goal is to expand parents’ involvement and membership in the league board.
“I look forward to getting to know parents, and helping them understand we’re here for them,” Uriarte said.
Vista American Little League, which serves Oceanside and Vista youth, will hold its Opening Day at Ron Ortega Park Feb. 27
Both Oceanside American Little League and Oceanside Valley Little League will hold Opening Day ceremonies on Feb. 28 at Ron Ortega Park and Melba Bishop Park respectively.
The small and mighty Oceanside American Little League starts the season with 210 players. League president Cesar Diaz said he has his sights set on getting to the Little League World Series.
He said he is not sure if it will be this season, or a future one, but the league will get there.
Opening Day ceremonies will introduce volunteer coaches, and last season’s winning teams.
“We’ve done fairly well for such a small league,” Diaz said. “We have a great bunch of volunteers.”
Another Opening Day highlight will be a motivational talk by a past league coach about the importance of honesty and fair play to win.
Diaz said this year a record number of 20 scholarships were granted to players who otherwise could not afford to join the league.
Financing needed gear, catcher equipment and shade tents still remain a challenge. The league is seeking additional sponsors to help with costs.
A reduction in charges for city field lights has helped the league’s operating budget. The city reduced the cost of field lights from $26 an hour to $20 an hour for all youth sports leagues.
More good news is city ball fields have been improved to ensure a better, safer game for players.
“We have a good partnership with the city,” Diaz said.
He added neighborhood police officers help ensure city parks where the league plays are drug and alcohol free.