New season opens with annual parade and ceremonies

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    WARWICK-Way back in 1955 there were only four coaches and about 400 players. On Saturday, April 9, one of those original coaches, John Baird, the Grand Marshall of the 2005 Little League Parade, led players and coaches, now numbering more than 1,000, down Main Street. The Warwick Little League officially opened its 50th season with the traditional annual parade that began this year at Lewis Park and ended at the baseball fields in Veterans Memorial Park. Although the opening games had been canceled because of heavy rains and severe flooding the week before, the ceremonies were still able to be held on schedule in one of the fields. Tom Ballard, president of the Warwick Little League, welcomed the Little Leaguers, their families and guests. "What a great future I see," said Ballard. "Imagine 2005. Some of you will be standing here." He then introduced other special guests including past presidents, old-timers and dignitaries who were invited to say a few words. Ballard also presented this year's special awards to Ed Cassin, Mike Holt, Frank Mulvet, Brian O'Rourke and Jeffrey Van der Plaat. "Give it 100 per cent and enjoy a healthy and happy season," said Orange County Legislator Ben Winstanley, who wore his 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers shirt commemorating the year the team won the World Series. Winstanley, an avid baseball fan, had once tried out as a pitcher for the Dodgers. New York State assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt congratulated the Little League managers, coaches and players and wished everyone a great season. Supervisor Michael Sweeton presented a proclamation from the Town of Warwick in honor of the 50th anniversary. Mayor Michael Newhard mentioned that he was one of the first Little Leaguers in Warwick. He also recalled that he was the worst. However, that soon changed. To the delight of the crowd, Newhard demonstrated the unorthodox batting stance his father taught him and which resulted in his being named batting champion at the end of the season. Addressing his remarks to the youngsters about to begin their season, he said, "These are golden times." Doug Stage and Bill Predmore co-chaired the 50th Anniversary ceremonies. And in honor of the special event, old-timers and representatives of the original sponsors: the Warwick Lions Club, the Warwick Fire Police, the Warwick Fire Department and VFW Post #214, were invited to participate. The first Little Leaguer drafted in 1955, John Hicks, tossed out the first of the four ceremonial baseballs. Rabbitt, Sweeton and Newhard then threw out the other "first balls" of the season. Immediately after the official ceremony, the Little Leaguers quickly wolfed down two giant commemorative cakes.