Two of Johnston’s oldest operating youth sports programs – the Johnston Little League and Girls Softball League – are about to rewrite their tradition-rich history books.
Saturday, in fact, the JLL and JGSL will combine forces for the annual Opening Day parade and ceremony that were in previous years held on back-to-back Saturday’s so that the youth baseball and softball upstarts could enjoy separate moments in the town’s sports spotlight.
“This is the first year the two Little League programs have joined forces on Opening Day,” Robert Civetti, a Johnston Town Councilman who has been an integral part of the boys’ baseball program for 38 straight years, told the Sun Rise Tuesday. “There’s a lot of excitement about the annual parade.”
In keeping with tradition, a town-wide parade will begin promptly at 9 o’clock Saturday morning in the Johnston High School parking lot and under police escort and will travel south on Atwood Avenue before turning west onto Hartford Avenue then heading into War Memorial Park.
A combined Opening Day ceremony will then be held at famed Kenney Field which has been the JLL’s storied surface for much of the youth baseball league’s playing days since the program commenced with the 1963 season.
“This will be our league’s 57th season,” Civetti offered of a youth baseball program that has watched many of its former players like current Boston College standout catcher Gian Martellini – a former All-Stater at Bishop Hendricken who last summer led the Wareham Gatemen to the famed Cap Cod Baseball League championship – enjoy success at some of amateur baseball’s highest levels.
Once the combined Opening Day ceremony is complete, the JLL will have Major Division games at Kennedy Field with the storied Susi Field that’s named in memory of the late long-time JLL volunteer frank Susi Sr. who passed away 12 years ago at the age of 54 hosting QAAA and AA Division games.
Ed Bedrosian, the longtime JLL president, and the program’s three other top officers – Vice President John Simao, Treasurer Peter Susi and Secretary Shayla Fargnoli are, as Civetti pointed out, “True volunteers as they have no children involved in the program.”
Nor does Civetti have a youngster in the JLL and shares some of the program’s history that dates back to 1982 when he helped his father coach the Orioles, which will again be sponsored by Lisi Construction and co-sponsored by the Johnston Lions Club.
The Northeast Auto Body sponsored Yankees, who won the JLL’s 2018 Town Championship, will kick off the season with a two-inning Opening Day contest vs. Lisi Construction and each team will bat half its players in the first inning and other half in the second frame.
Once the combined Opening Day ceremony is complete, famed Daniel E. Mazzulla Field will be the site of Johnston Girls Softball League that was founded in 1981 and is affiliated with both Little League Baseball that’s based in Williamsport, Pa. and the ageless ASA (Amateur Softball Association).
“We’re looking forward to another exciting season of girls’ fastpitch softball,” Lisa Calabro, the JGSL’s highly-respected and tireless president, offered Tuesday. “Everyone’s hoping for great weather and a season of successes for all our players, manager, coaches and officers.”
While Calabro serves as president, Stacey Regan is the vice president with Derek Calabro – Lisa’s husband and Mr. JGSL workhorse volunteer – serving as coaching coordinator. Kim Benoit is secretary and Deb McHale will serve as treasurer while her husband holds the all-important title of field maintenance director.
Bill Rose holds one of the league’s most important positions, Concession Coordinator.
“We’re hoping we don’t get rained out,” said Lisa Calabro while referring to the weather forecast that calls for rain Saturday. “There’s no rain date for the boys but we could re-schedule our Opening Day games if necessary.”