Parade, jamboree, Boston Red Sox kick off Little League season
|Betsy Hills Real Estate shortstop Ryan Gilman shows good form fielding this grounder during exhibition baseball action at the Center.
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|Where's Waldo? See if you can pick out Islanders Andy Price, Kay Kay Hardy and Raul Gomez among the more than 250 people who attended the Pirates' game with the Anna Maria Island Little League.
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The Anna Maria Island Little League officially jump-started its season over the March 19-20 weekend with a parade of Little Leaguers, coaches, parents and fans that started on the south end of the Island and traveled north to their final destination at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. Once there, Little Leaguers participated in a series of exhibition games, which consisted of each team's players getting a chance at the plate and in the field. T-ballers started off, followed by AA and finally AAA teams.
While that was going on, individual and team pictures were taken, in addition to hamburgers being grilled for those with an appetite.
The following day, 250 or so Little League players, coaches and parents made their way out to McKechnie Field in Bradenton for a spring training game between Bradenton's own Pittsburgh Pirates and the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
The Pirates disappointed a huge number of Red Sox fans by winning the game by a 5-3 score, thanks to five first-inning runs off of former Devil Rays pitcher John Halama. Pirate first baseman Craig Wilson provided the big blow when he planted a Halama fastball onto the Boys Club roof in left field to score Matt Lawton and Tike Redmond, who had reached base on singles.
After the game had ended, a number of youngsters - Islanders and towners alike - hit the field for a chance to run the bases.
All in all, it was a great day to watch a baseball game. Great weather, great game and a chance to see some of the biggest stars in the game - Red Sox stars, that is. The game took a turn for the better for this writer midway through the fourth inning when I received a call from one of my high school soccer players. Her mom - Bradenton Councilwoman Michele Weaver - invited me up to Mayor Wayne Poston's luxury box. Free food, beverages and a great view, not to mention a chance to hobnob with some of the area's politicians and “well knowns,” such Vin Mannix, Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, Bradenton Councilman Gene Gallo, State Rep. Mike Bennett, County Commisioner Pat Glass and Poston.
As for the Anna Maria Island Little League, its season gets started for real Monday, March 21, and continues through the end of May. Thanks to a recent equipment fundraising drive, all batters are sporting brand new batting helmets, while the catchers are safer than ever with their new gear. Take a look around the stadium and you'll see a great new sign donated by Ross Toussaint of Longboat Key Signs that lists all of the League's sponsors.
Speaking of sponsors, the Center wants Island businesses to be aware that they have field banners for sale. This is a great way to advertise your business and help support Anna Maria Island Little League. The first-year cost of the field banner is $150, which includes the cost of making the sign. The cost goes down to $100 in year two. Anyone interested in purchasing a field banner can call Little League board secretary Dana Even at 704-3171, or Center athletic director Andy Jonatzke at 778-1908.
Get on down to the Center and take in a game. There's not a bad seat in the house!
Signup ongoing for indoor roller hockey
Players are being sought to join the Anna Maria Islanders Roller Hockey League at the Center gym for 3-on-3 inter-league play. The center is offering beginner and advanced divisions with one game and one practice per week.
Cost is $35 per player, which includes league play, practice and jersey. Players must have their own stick, helmet with face mask and elbow and shin guards. Season runs through May including special final week events.
For more information, call Jonatzke at 778-1908.