Cool temperatures and stiff winds could not quell the enthusiasm of hundreds of local baseball and t-ball players Saturday, who celebrated opening day at Johnson City’s three little league complexes.
Freshly lined infields, exquisitely manicured outfields and clean new uniforms could mean just one thing – children citywide were embarking on another spring journey through the triumphs and disappointments that make America’s pastime a microcosm of life.
Five-year-olds will learn to make contact, run the base paths and watch the ball into the glove (along with staring at bugs and dandelions in the field and looking forward to snack). Older players will polish the finer points of turning double-plays, hitting to the opposite field and smoothly executing the relay to home.
They’ll do it all, as always, thanks to the dedication of volunteer coaches and managers (see story below). Johnson City’s American, National and Major leagues will be in action Saturdays and several nights a week. Those looking for a trip down memory lane, a taste of things to come, or just an innocent diversion from the pressures of life should check the web for schedules.
National League honors coaching duo
Nearly two decades of dedication to the boys and girls who play Little League in Johnson City’s National League earned recently retired manager Marvin Harris a surprise honor Saturday. National League president Joe Adams presented Harris with the Doc Whitmore lifetime achievement award.
Harris’s longtime assistant, John Coffman, received the Bud Rutherford award, named for one of the league’s founders.
“In Little League, volunteers are everything,” Joe Adams said. “Most of our coaches have kids who are playing in the league. Guys, these men do not. These guys gave everything for 19 years.”
Adams said Harris and Coffman, who led Spa Glow to the city semifinals last season, embody what Little League baseball should be about.
“Winning, losing, does not matter. Teaching these kids, giving to these kids, and showing these kids the right direction to go – that’s why we’re here.”
Paul Overbay, a Science Hill High School teacher and coach, said he came to know Harris and Kauffman well when his children were in the league from 2003 to 2011.
“The coaches like Marvin and John treated my kids with so much respect, and they helped them through good and bad,” Overbay said. “I made good friends here that I’ll keep the rest of my life. You need to be proud of this league – it’s a great league.”