COLUMN: Nothing little about it

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Opening Day a celebration of big dreams getting bigger

By John Herndon

About the only thing Little about the Anderson County League is the field where baseball is being played this summer.

The infield is about 2/3 the size of a major league field and the outfield proportionately less in keeping with the idea that the next Jay Bruce or Ryan Howard is just beginning to learn how to use formulas to figure his batting average.

The fence is about 200 feet from home plate and the heat rarely comes to the plate in excess of 50 miles per hour.

But it’s still baseball.

The Little League had its Opening Day Saturday at Legion Park. Naturally, it was big.

The local organization had actually started the season several days before but Saturday was really the big day.

Crowds overflowed the two fields, local politicians made their appearances and local businesses were on hand to show their support for kids playing on teams with names like Snappers and Mudcats, Reds and White Sox.

Some probably have those big dreams like former Little Leaguers George Brett and Nolan Ryan, now in the Hall of Fame. Most would be content to be like Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay, who played in the Little League World Series then eventually made it to the big leagues.

Those are the kind of dreams that keep baseball going, that keep setting attendance records in the big leagues and tie generations together with the game we played in the backyard.

While reality says there are only 800 positions available in the majors at any time, the dreams never have to die. Just ask local Little League president Bart Lewis. Growing up in Carter County, his dream was to be the next Dave Concepcion. Instead of becoming the shortstop on the next Big Red Machine, Lewis settled for playing collegiate baseball at Eastern Kentucky.

An now, he’s carried the dream to Lawrenceburg’s Legion Park and, along with the local volunteers that make up the local board, Little League is even bigger.

Lewis told the crowd gathered for Opening Day that a year ago, 160 children played Little League baseball in Anderson County. “This year, we have 249,” he said with a huge smile.

The league has added an overhand coach-pitch league this year and is looking for a field where kids 13-15 can play next year. Lewis announced that fall baseball will make its local debut this year.

At the culmination of festivities, Lewis and other members of the board invited the crowd to check out the new batting cages stationed near each field. The emotional ceremony was one that brought together the dreams of the past with those of the present. The cages were named in honor of Allen Dennis, who would have been a senior at Anderson County High School this year. He drowned in 2001, but his mom, Lisa Hughes, channeled her energies into making things better for local kids, even serving as the first president of the local group after it was sanctioned in 2002.

Allen Dennis was taken from those who loved him most much too soon. The tears shed Saturday by those who remembered him were genuine.

But it was also fitting that some of the first to view the memorial marker, after his family, was a group of current Little League Reds and Braves.

They were a reminder that big dreams can live on.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.