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Local Sports: Roundtable — Warmth among the chills

45 degrees at best until a warming sun emerged before noon. It felt like 30 when I arrived at 9:45 a.m. "I've got to go get some warm clothes,'' muttered one mom who headed for the parking lot early. In life as we know, there are few events which rival the chaos -- organized or otherwise -- than opening day at a Little League ballpark. There's the overwhelming day-after-Thanksgiving mall shopping
Posted on April 27, 2008 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 27, 2008 at 10:08 a.m.

Shivering, half-frozen fans sporting knit gloves and draped in blankets.

Tantalizing wafts of barbecue chicken and fresh popcorn.

People everywhere sharing a special buzz in the air.

A Notre Dame game in October?

Sorry.

Try Little League opening day in Indiana.

After being teased by a week of temperatures in the 70s, pushing 80 on Friday, you just knew that Saturday's first morning at Concord Little League would be overcast, blustery and downright cold -- 45 degrees at best until a warming sun emerged before noon.

It felt like 30 when I arrived at 9:45 a.m.

"I've got to go get some warm clothes,'' muttered one mom who headed for the parking lot early.

In life as we know, there are few events which rival the chaos -- organized or otherwise -- than opening day at a Little League ballpark.

There's the overwhelming day-after-Thanksgiving mall shopping blur, the first morning at an elementary school and kid's day at the 4-H Fair.

"It's like trying to herd cats,'' said Stu Boswell, a coach and vice president of minor softball at Concord.

I couldn't agree more.

It's as hilarious a couple of hours as one can imagine -- if you have a mildly twisted sense of humor, that is.

While most of Elkhart County's parks start next weekend, Concord, Baugo and Goshen kicked off their seasons Saturday. It also was picture day at Concord, which added to the frenzy.

Forget those new uniforms, brand new bats and gloves -- photos are big.

Real big.

Hyped kids with questions, anxious moms with order forms and dads trying to stand quietly out harm's way.

"Why do we have to tuck our shirts in?'' one young girl asked her coach.

"So you look like ball players,'' the coach said.

A mother was searched for her son's lost Cubs sweatshirt.

One boy looked for his hat.

Hot coffee and cocoa were high in demand.

Me? I just hoped the ink in my pen didn't freeze.

There were the young ones of T-ball and coach-pitch who rolled in the outfield grass while the game played on.

There were 12-year-olds who dug in and lived and breathed on every swing and throw.

And among all the bright colors and fresh faces, there was one family who literally lived and breathed the day's first pitches.

During the league's opening ceremonies, a moment was taken to celebrate the life of Andrew Hollis, the 6-year-old who died in February after accidently falling into the Elkhart River near his home.

A first-time Little Leaguer a year ago, Concord planted a small tree in Andrew's honor -- the only such recognition Concord's ever done. At the base of the tree rested Andrew's baseball he got at at Gary RailCats minor league game last summer.

"He was a great kid and a great sportsman,'' Ed Frutig, the league's opening day director, said to the teams, parents and fans who gathered. "He was a lovely little boy.''

Andrew's mom, Crystal Bauman-Hollis, joined grandparents Linda and Robert Bauman, during opening ceremonies.

"It's hard, but it's therapeutic, too. I cannot not be here. I wanted to see other kids, too,'' Crystal said. "This means a lot to me. It means that nobody wants to forget him.''

Crystal wanted to be there. Family and friends wanted her there.

It was an opening day for her as well -- a warmth among the chills.

"I wanted to give them,'' Crystal said, "everything they gave to him.''

Contact Bill Beck at bbeck@etruth.com or 296-5871.




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