Shells from sunflower seeds were already littered under the stands.
Nachos, chips, peanuts and licorice lined the counter of the snack bar, ready for hungry players and their families.
And spare bases were piled next to a storage room door waiting to be laid in place on the baseball diamond.
Hundreds of excited boys and girls swarmed the fields at Salas Park on Stockton Street to celebrate Opening Day, and for many, the start of springtime.
It’s great news that the Giants and A’s are playing again, but that energy can’t compare with young ballplayers in Lodi.
The morning began with a pancake breakfast to benefit B.O.B.S. youth sports fundraising group. Then players and families took to the field for the opening ceremonies.
“All the teams look great out there. You all look ready to play ball,” said Grant Plath, recreation coordinator for the city. “It’s going to be a great season.”
The smell of freshly cut grass blended with the clean damp air from the overcast weather.
“These fields took a beating this last week with the heavy rain,” said Plath.
Luckily, both of Saturday’s doubleheaders went on as scheduled.
Plath thanked the volunteers, and took a moment to remember Tony Rodriguez and Ron Marks, two men deeply involved in Lodi’s baseball and softball leagues who passed away recently.
Decked out in crisp new baseball pants and team T-shirts, 1,200 Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth league players jumped, cheered and tossed their ballcaps as each team name, coach and sponsor was read in turn. Lines of players ran the length of the infield.
Davis Mahoney, a talented local singer, sported a burgundy sweatshirt and corduroy cap as he sang the “Star Spangled Banner” to the assembled crowd.
The first softball pitch was thrown by Cambi Brown of Good Day Sacramento. The popular morning show sent out a news van to capture the excitement and include a live shot on the air.
Haley Gonzales caught Brown’s easy toss without a hitch.
The honor of the first baseball pitch went to Jeff Hood, Parks and Recreation Director. The crowd parted to allow Hood to lob the ball right from the pitcher’s mound, but Devin Olsen had it under control playing catcher at home plate.
The season has only begun. Contact the Parks and Recreation Department for a full schedule of games.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.