Little League opens in Killingly with special guests

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Apr. 29, 2013
Some of Killingly's original Little League players and coaches gathered for the 55th reunion. Photos by D. Coffey.
Some of Killingly's original Little League players and coaches gathered for the 55th reunion. Photos by D. Coffey.

When a parade of 32 Little League teams made it from Davis Park to the Killingly fields on April 27, they were greeted by a special group of men: 21 Little League veterans from 55 years ago. The first generation of Killingly Little Leaguers had come together for their 55th reunion, to rekindle friendships, relive their glory days on the fields, and most importantly, support this year's young players.

They weren't 8 or 9 or 11-years-old anymore. Many had turned in baseball gloves for golf clubs. Some had had hips or knees replaced. But all of them remembered the year Killingly Little League was born.

Tryouts were held at Alumni Field on Westcott Road and Charlie Panteleakos was picked first in the draft, Sam Markley second. Markley was 11 years old at the time. “That's where we all learned how to play,” Markley said. “Little League preaches the best kind of competitiveness. Be kind to your teammates and be nice to the other team. It teaches good sportsmanship. It gives kids something to strive for.”

Rene Provost flew in from Florida for the occasion. Provost was one of the original coaches 55 years ago. “I look at Little League as a chance for parents and kids to play together,” he said. “There's nothing greater than having a family come to watch their kids play, and win or lose, say, 'Good game. You played well.' The kid feels good.”

Provost coached Markley that first year and remembered his competitive streak. “He wanted to win every game,” Provost recalled. “But you don't win every game. You try to correct what you did wrong, and move on.”

Provost's example had a lifelong impact on Markley. When Markley went on to coach, he used Provost as a guide. “I patterned my whole coaching career after what Rene did with me,” he said. “He was fantastic. He was the epitome of what a coach should be. He knew everything possible about baseball and he was just a good guy. He treated everyone wonderfully.”

The veterans watched a seemingly endless stream of young players in red, green, blue, black, pink, maroon, gray and orange uniforms made their way onto a nearby field. Hundreds gathered along the fence and in the bleachers.

Ron Coderre and Betty Hale accepted a check from Killingly Little League on behalf of the Regional YMCA slated to be built in Putnam. Coderre used the occasion to remind the young players that baseball wasn't just a great pastime. “Baseball is the greatest game America has known,” Coderre said. “It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care what color or religion a player is. What's important is that everyone plays together as a team.”  

After the songs and speeches and photographs, the kids got what they'd been waiting a year for: the chance to play ball.

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