Batter Up!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2004

Things will be a little different during this years Greenville Park and Recreation Dixie Youth Baseball Opening Day.

In the past, each of the leagues involved in the youth baseball program have held separate Opening Day ceremonies on different dates. Last year, the Dixie Minors (9n10 year olds) and Dixie Youth (11n12 year olds) combined their seasonnopening ceremonies. This year the Dixie Boys (13n14 year olds) jumped into the mix.

"Usually we just open up one league at a time, but gradually we've been adding a league," Greenville Parks and Recreation Director Jerome Harris said. "Hopefully, we'll work up to where we open up all the leagues on the first Saturday in April."

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The three leagues will open this Saturday with Opening Day ceremonies held at 8:30 a.m. at the Beeland Park Complex on Cavanaugh Field.

"Preparations are going good," Harris said. "Right now the fields in pretty good shape. We've basically got to get the uniforms out. Other than that, we've got everything lined up and all the people lined up for the program."

Butler County Circuit Clerk Allen Stephenson will announce each team's lineup to get the day started, followed by the invocation by Butler Chapel A.M.E. Zion Rev. William Scott. Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon will then give an official welcome, Troy Sate University student Lacey Jordan will sing the National Anthem and McLendon will conclude the ceremony by throwing out the first pitch.

Harris said the Parks and Recreation Department is working to eventually have all leagues open up on the same day. He believes having every league playing would help broaden the event.

"We're trying to make a big day out of it," Harris said. "A lot of places even do parades and hopefully we can add some more stuff to our opening day. We're going to get some vendors and stuff to give out free stuff. We want to make a festival out of it, instead of it being just an opening. That's what we're trying to work up to. Hopefully within the next two years we'll be where we want to be."

Next year, Harris plans on including softball in the same Opening Day as baseball.

Harris is anticipating 500 to 600 spectators on hand throughout the day. Sixteen teams will be in action, including 14 Greenville teams. Georgiana and Fort Deposit each have a team in Dixie Boys.

Harris said more players signed up this year than any year in the Greenville organization. Dixie Youth only fielded four teams the last two years, but had enough players to fill six teams this year. Dixie Minors increased from four teams to five this year and Dixie Boys added one team and will field five this year.

"The response has been great," Harris said. "The numbers have increased drastically in all leagues this year. We've got more teams than we've ever had. The numbers are increasing. Especially in the girls."

Two Dixie Boys games will be held at Beeland Park on Saturday and one team will have a bye week. All Dixie Minors and Dixie Youth teams will play at Day Park.