Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Geoff Kirsch from The Gastineau Channel Little League led the Little League opening day Saturday morning at the Adair Kennedy Field.
After hundreds of Little League players ran together with their teams onto the field, through tunnels of arms and high-fives, the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the National Anthem took place.
First-pitch softball and baseball took place shortly after the Little League pledge.
Kirsch told News of the North what stuck out to him about the opening ceremony.
"I look forward to opening day baseball every year because that always means summertime. Even though there's huge piles of snow out in the outfield," he shared. "It's a sunny day. The kids are out there wearing their baseball uniforms and just seems like spring. Opening day baseball for Little League has been going on for 70 years. So I feel like people feel that same way every year for 70 years."
The field was full of players Saturday, seeing roughly 450 players on the field. Kirsch said baseball has always been popular in Southeast.
"Baseball is surprisingly like a very popular thing in southeast Alaska, you wouldn't think so given the amount of rain and the shortness of the season, but it's very popular. Here in Juneau, and Ketchikan and Sitka. It's traditionally been that way even before these towns were fully incorporated, they'd play baseball," he said. "There's photos of prospectors, playing local Native Brotherhood teams. So it's really great to be a part of that history. It's that kind of baseball history that applies to the entire United States, but regionally."
Above and below: Players participated in the Little League Pledge. For baseball, it was Zach Ritter, Marquis Lim, and Eli Hayes. For softball, it was Millie Mar, Maisey Mar, and Lily Hayes. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)
There was also a Little League chant for parents.
Above: Mandy Massey throws the first pitch for softball. Joining her to throw a "second" first pitch is her daughter Gloria Bixby, a lifelong Gastineau Channel Little League (GCLL) participant, and currently a senior on the Juneau Douglas High School (JDHS) Crimson Bears softball team. Below: Jacob and Parker Katasse participated in the first pitch for baseball. Jacob pitches while Parker catches. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)
"Mandy Massey, her father, David Massey, started softball from scratch in 1986," Kirsch said. "And now it's 37 years later. And it's incredible. You can see we've got a tremendous amount of participation for softball."
When GCLL fast-pitch softball began in Juneau 37 years ago, Mandy Massey was only 10 years old.
Kirsch also shared insight on the baseball first-pitchers.
"Jacob and Parker, their great grandfather was Officer Richard Adair, and he's one of the police officers who was ambushed in a shooting in the line of duty in Evergreen Park back in 1979. He loved baseball, and he loved sports. So that's why when they redeveloped this whole athletic complex here, they named it after Adair and Kennedy," he said. "The Adair progeny were all girls, they played softball, and girls softball plays on different fields. So today literally was the very first time that Jacob and Parker, any direct descendant, was actually playing on the field that's named after their great grandfather."
Officer Adair coached baseball in Juneau for many years.
Jacob Katasse now plays on the JDHS Crimson Bears baseball team, and Parker is in the major division.
Kirsch was asked what he's looking forward to about the upcoming season.
"My whole thing is everyone on my team has a good time. We're gonna have fun," Kirsch said. "I'd like to win a couple of games but fun and safety is what I'm looking forward to."
Kirsch also gave details on how people can sign up to get involved, whether as a player, volunteer, or umpire.
"It's a little late for this year, but juneaulittleleague.com is our website and that's got all kinds of information," he commented. "You can sign up to be a volunteer, you can sign up to be an umpire. We really need umpires if you know how to be an umpire, we would love to have you sign up. Even if it's too late, you can set up a player profile and that will get you set for automatic notifications when registration begins for next year."
Juneau is going to host several Softball tournaments, including District and State later this year, and a District 2 Minors baseball tournament. The season for Little League ends in mid-June, with high school teams ending towards the end of June. Although, Kirsch said they may have some "unofficial sandlot games into August".
"We try to play as much as we can in these 3 short months," Kirsch added.
Above: Kelsi Sell sings the National Anthem. She is a senior at Thunder Mountain High School. She has received numerous scholarships and will attend Linfield College in Oregon next fall. She plans to major in Creative Writing and will pursue a minor in Education. Below: Deacon Charles Rohrbacker from the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary gave the invocation. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)
Below: Players are welcomed to the field. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)