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St. Helena Little League

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Mar, 2022

SHLL 2022 Opening Day: 60th Season

Napa Valley Register, March 23, 2022, Andy Wilcox

St. Helena Little League finally held its 60th Opening Day ceremony on March 12 at Crane Park.

The league’s first Opening Day since 2019 marked the relaunch of its Field Renovation Capital Campaign, the first phase of which was completed in February with the laying of new sod on both the Crane West and Crane East fields.

“The fields not only look incredibly beautiful, but the new sod was a critical first step to begin restoring the fields for player safety,” said board member Anna Marie Longo.

There was a festive atmosphere as SHLL President Jeff Blaum emceed the ceremony. He introduced 20 baseball and softball teams, which have more than 225 players ages 6-14, as they lined up in the outfield.

In the Coach Pitch division are manager Stefano Particelli’s Cougars, Lauren Pesch’s Seadogs, Lisa Empting’s Volcanoes and Sarah Donely’s Wizards. The three Super Rookies teams are manager James Eyer’s Lugnuts, Ian White’s Rivercats, and Aaron Elam and Beth Pryor’s Rockhounds.

The four Minor division baseball teams are manager Tony Leonardini’s Jaguars, Matthew Heil’s Lions, Jason Driscoll’s Panthers and Troy Watters’ Tigers. The softball AA Minors teams are Jason Tamagni’s Cubs and Becky Cuddy and Christina Dwyer’s Wolves. The softball AAA Minors team is manager Michael Grimes’ Blue Jays.

The three Major division baseball teams are manager Donnie Finley’s Eagles, Jose Rodriguez’s Giants and Paul Villegas’ Red Sox. The Major division softball team is manager Joe Blanton’s Cardinals, the Intermediate baseball team is managed by Mark Ray, and the Junior division baseball team is managed by Blaum.

Blaum remarked that, as an all-volunteer organization, SHLL wouldn’t be possible without the involvement of parents and the generous support of its sponsors. He thanked the sponsors, team managers, assistant coaches and team volunteers for their commitment, along with 2022 board members Corey Beck, Hugh Davies, Ilona Falvy, Michael Grimes, Scott Harvey, Matt Hileman, Joe Herdell, Tony Leonardini, Longo, Elaine Lund, Jeanne Morrill, Mark Ray, Pesch and Villegas.

There was a special unveiling of a new SHLL sign at Crane West recognizing SHLL’s district championship teams. Players from last year’s SHLL Junior All-Stars, who won the District 53 championship, were on hand to present the sign.

The St. Helena Fire Department displayed the American flag from a crane. St. Helena High School drama students Anna Harrington, Tahlia Smith and Aubrey Moura, from “The Addams Family” cast, sang the National Anthem. Special guest Chili Davis, a retired Major League Baseball player and All-Star, threw out the first pitch to current Little League player Skyler Frate. Davis spoke about how Little League is where it all begins while giving a few inspiring remarks to this year’s players and families.

Wrapping up the ceremony was a thrilling flyover by Larry Nelson in a 1942 Vintage Fairchild PT-19 plane.

After the ceremonies, the first baseball and softball games were played on Crane East and Crane West.

“Fans filled the stands, the snack shack was busy all day, and the fields were full of great energy,” Longo said. “It was wonderful to have the SHLL community back together. All the best for a great season ahead.”

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