Albany Independent League held its opening day ceremony Saturday, April 19, 2014, at the Mountain View Roadside Park and despite the decline in numbers during the past several years, the first day of baseball for the youngsters went off without a hitch.
AIL President John Mason and his board of directors worked all last week in preparation for the opening day event and according to Mason, the event was bigger than last year’s.
“We finished up with 207 players this year,” Mason said. “I think we had 169 last year, so that’s a big improvement. It was jam-packed out there Saturday.”
The ceremony kicked off at 9 a.m. with a parade through town. After the circle was made, players and coaches made their way to one of the fields at Mountain View Park for the announcing of the teams and players.
The ceremony continued with the singing of the National Anthem by Jack Amonett, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance by sons and daughters of the board members.
David McIver led the teams in a prayer, which was followed by the first pitches being thrown.
The honorary first pitches were thrown in memory of Wendell Burchett by his son Steve Burchett, who threw both a left-handed and right-handed pitch to Blake Melton, while his granddaughter Paige Burchett Mason threw out the first softball pitch to Bree Bowlin, representing both girls’ and boys’ leagues.
Mason then said the two words players had been waiting to hear all day “Play Ball,” and with those words, the Albany Independent League was underway for the 2014 season.
Mason said the opening ceremony went well and he was proud of the crowd on hand to view the ceremony.
“I would like to thank the parents, volunteers, coaches and Cameron Speers. He helped tremendously with the bouncy houses.”
AIL has been struggling in recent years with numbers, but with the rise in players this season, Mason said he believes it will be a great year.
“I had so many people compliment me and the board on what we’ve done … I’ve had a few complaints as well, but nothing really major,” Mason said. “There are several things we are going to work on during the off-season this year in order to make next year even better.”