No rain delay for Norwich Little League's opening day

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Tue., Apr. 26, 2011
Members of the Mets greet the Easter Bunny and C.T. the Tiger at Norwich Little League's opening day April 23. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Members of the Mets greet the Easter Bunny and C.T. the Tiger at Norwich Little League's opening day April 23. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Despite the upbeat lyrics of the song blaring over the loudspeaker, opening day of Little League season in Norwich was decidedly not a beautiful day.

A steady, chilly downpour drenched ballplayers and their families huddled under umbrellas or clustered under the roof at Dodd Stadium April 23. Hooded sweatshirts covered up team uniforms to keep kids dry, and players pulled their arms inside their sleeves to keep their fingers warm.

“We thought about cancelling it outright, but it would have been a nightmare with [team] pictures,” said league president Glen Simpson. Group photos for sponsors’ plaques are taken on opening day – an all-day process, with 41 teams in the league.

Despite the discomfort, there were plenty of smiles in evidence on small faces as t-ball, baseball and softball players opened the season with a parade around the stadium, the national anthem, the opening pitch and a meet-and-greet with the Easter Bunny and Connecticut Tigers mascot C.T.

About 515 children from ages 4 through 15 are registered for the season, said Simpson. Numbers have grown in recent years, thanks to scholarship funds, he said. The sponsorship of local businesses, along with a grant from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, “make it possible for us to allow children to play at a lower price,” he said. “We’re trying to lower our registration costs and make it affordable for parents.”

Jane Shea and Denise Magario from the Community Foundation presented league officials with this year’s grant during the ceremonies. That $7,500 sum was earmarked for renovation of the girls' softball field.

Opening day has been held at Dodd for the past six years or so, said Simpson. It’s a venue that has to be scheduled well in advance, which contributed to the decision not to postpone the ceremonies.

It was all new for 6-year-old Dylan, who’s a rookie on the Iron Pigs t-ball team this year. “This is my first time being on this kind of field,” he said. “I’m going to catch the first pitch.”

The rain was no big deal for him. “I drink this rain,” he said.

Heather Strong is a rookie this year, too. The 15-year-old is playing softball for the first time ever this season. “I got bored sitting at home,” she said. She’ll be playing shortstop on the junior/senior division team called the Glory.

Her teammate, Giovanna Suntheimer, 14, is a seasoned softball player. “I’ve been playing since t-ball – quite a few years,” she said. Her position is first base.

The league’s regular season begins in April and continues through the end of June, said Simpson. The all-star tournament follows in July and lasts about a month, followed by a training and development program and later by winter clinics for interested players. Between 150 and 200 adult volunteers serve as coaches, maintenance people and assistants.

While a full slate of games was scheduled for later in the day, Simpson said that only one was actually played – at 7 p.m., after the rain stopped. “We tried all day to get one in,” he said.

With 15 new members on the league’s board, Simpson said that this year’s experience would lead to more careful planning for next season. “It never goes perfect. But next year we’ll definitely have a better plan B,” he said.

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