Youth baseball is indeed alive and well in Johnston.
So much so, in fact, the Johnston Little League batted 1.000 on Opening Day Saturday at famed Kennedy Field where one of the largest crowds in the program’s storied 61-year history watched what people described as “A Towering Grand Slam-star spangled ceremony.”
The day, which began with the traditional town-wide parade that stepped off at Johnston High School and wound up inside War Memorial Park, included many impressive firsts highlighted by a record number of colorful sponsor signs and flags affixed to the outfield fence.
The line of march was led by the Johnston Police and Fire Department’s Color Guards, Town Council and School Committee members, Johnston Police Explorer Post Color Guard, a spiffy Northeast Auto Body tow truck driven by Matt Clements who played special baseball music along the route and five shiny red JRD vehicles.
The new-look 12-team league, which is led by first-year President Joe Splendorio and Vice President Michael Orsini and eight other valuable volunteers, began its 61st anniversary season that will feature increased player participation.
Likewise, Opening Day featured many historic firsts that included a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by JHS student Miss Johnston Teen Eliyahna Negren who was introduced by Emcee Michael Perez and officially began once Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Jr. delivered the ceremonial first pitch to Astros catcher Michael Lombardi.
“The mayor is a lefty,” several people said as Polisena Jr. reared back for the historic pitch. “Think about this,” people offered after Johnston’s new mayor – as his famous father Joseph Polisena did through his tenure – did for the first pitch: “When this league started six decades ago our new mayor wasn’t even born; now he’s 32.”
During his brief yet impressive remarks, the mayor said: “Thank you to all the parents” and urged the players “to set goals and have fun doing so. Good luck to everyone and have a great season!”
There were countless similar stories that included heaps of praise for the JLL’s well-organized Board of Director’s that includes Michael Perez Treasurer; Ken Kalnietis, Secretary; Anthony Ferranti, Safety Officer; Bob Greenhalgh, Equipment Manager; Gary Rianna, Jr.-Sr. League Commissioner; Juan Catala, Coaching Coordinator; Michael Iafrate, Fundraiser/Sponsor Chair; and Todd Spindler, Minor League Clinic Instructor.
Each of the 12 teams and their coaches – as well as Junior-Senior Division teams and coaches - were introduced as they stood on the infield grass, where Polisena Jr. wound up for the first pitch after he addressed an appreciative and applauding audience.
“Excitement is everywhere here this morning,” people were saying as they headed for the food trucks and Tennis Ball Ring Toss Fundraiser.
And it has been way since 1963 when the popular and prize program received its official charter from Little League International in Williamsport, Pa.