The impresario of the opening ceremonies was John Murphy, the president of the Clearwater division of District 12 – an area extending from Belleair Bluffs in the south, Clearwater to the west, Oldsmar to the east and New Port Richie to the north.
John, a consummate volunteer who averaged 40 hours a week for three weeks preparing for the new season, had this to say about the game he serves:
“When the country is hurting, in times of trouble and war, America turns back to baseball. There’s something tranquil and reassuring about coming out to a ballpark to watch a game and cheer on your side.”
Little League baseball was founded nationally in 1939 and arrived in Clearwater in 1955. It is at the base of a towering pyramid that defines our national pastime, from four year olds playing T-ball to the mega-parks filled with passionate fans in our nation’s cities.
Little League baseball is where it all begins. True, it’s a breeding ground of future stars. But above all, it is a place where communities and children can come together to participate in a game built on the shoulders of such giants as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson.
For many who were present at the Sid Lickton facility on Saturday, opening day will leave an indelible memory: the celebration of the legacy of the beloved Lou Caprara, who passed away in 2009, having served the sport he loved for 50 years. His widow, Mrs. Caprara, son, Joe Caprara, and his many friends were present when John Murphy announced that henceforth Field Four at the complex would be known as the Lou Caprara Field.
Additional honors were accorded Lou: the front of each Little Leaguer’s uniform states, “In memory of Louis J. Caprara” Denise Yerbic wrote and movingly recited a poetic eulogy to the passing of a man who remains in the minds and hearts of all he touched.
The ceremonies had other highlights and participants who made it possible. Local dignitaries were on hand and lent their prestige to the day: Clearwater council members George Cretekos and Carlen Petersen, City Manager Bill Horne, Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel and Chief Geer of the Clearwater Fire Department.
Opening Day also prominently featured Patsy Stills, the event’s personable master of ceremonies, Besthy Philsler who beautifully rendered our national anthem and the merry clowns of Clearwater Community Volunteers, Pam Ryan Anderson and Lynn Posyton. On hand as well were the larger-than-life mascots of the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and the University of South Florida Bulls. An honor guard from USF’s ROTC lent their color and pageantry to the occasion.
No account of the festivities would be complete without mentioning the exuberant presence of an outstanding musical group, The Stones, led by its Mick Jagger look-alike and sound-alike, Richard Stewart. These boys were good!
But who were the real stars? Who made the event possible? The children, of course, ranging from four to seventeen years old, including the Challenger Division (for mentally and physically handicapped children), who filled the fields on opening days with their multicolored uniforms, their joy and excitement.
The introduction of each team and seeing the children running onto the field to take their places during the festivities was the highlight of the day. And in the end the children said it best. When asked what they liked best about playing Little League baseball, Travis Starkey and Daniel Joseph, both twelve years old, agreed: “It’s fun!