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Little League Opening Day Hits Home Run

By Ben Platt and Steve Simmons

When you play Little League baseball, Opening Day comes a little earlier than it does for the major leaguers, so Tuesday was national opening day for the 70th Little League season, with a ceremony at La Cienega Park attended by baseball greats Dave Winfield and Fred Lynn and Beverly Hills’ own Larry King and Beverly Hills Councilman Barry Brucker.

“I’m very proud to have been asked to take part today,” said Dodgers season-ticket holder King, whose sons Chance and Cannon play in the Beverly Hills Little League. “These kids who are playing today with a team from Culver City playing Beverly Hills are wonderful. It’s a beautiful day—it’s a baseball day. This is what baseball is all about. The grass is green, the dirt is brown, the chalk lines are white and the sky is clear.”

“It was a fantastic event,” said Mike McAlister, Beverly Hills Little League board member who also coaches the Mariners in the minors and Cardinals in the majors.

“Little League District 25 (which encompasses Beverly Hills), did a great job, the City got the fields ready and Subway (a sponsor of the day) supplied food,” McAlister said. “The teams were evenly matched and the was good play and hitting on both sides. It couldn’t have been better.”

The four-inning exhibition game began with Beverly Hills on the field. Pitcher Tyler Graham struck out the first batter and walked the second. The third hit a pop fly behind second base that was caught by shortstop Sean McAlister who took out the baserunner and tossed the ball to first baseman Alec Palchkoff for the double play.

 In the see-sawing game, Beverly Hills jumped to a 2-0 lead and Culver City held them to two runs. Culver City came back to tie, 2-2; Beverly Hills moved ahead 4-2 and Culver City made another run, bringing the score to 5-4.

In the action, Michael Massie’s hit went deep. “Their center fielder made a great catch; he slammed into the metal fence. It was unbelievable he held onto it,” McAlister said.

In another play, Adam Rokah hit a line drive down the third-base line that hit the back fence. He ended up with a triple play.

At one point, Culver City layed down a bunt that was snatched by Graham who threw to third baseman Chad  Johnson to take out the lead runner.

Culver City answered with three more runs, taking the lead 8-5. Beverly Hills managed one more run to make the final: 8-6. “It was a great game,” McAlister said.

Hall of Famer Winfield and former American League MVP and “Rookie of the Year” Lynn served as celebrity coaches in the game, giving the Little Leagues a chance to interact with two of baseball’s all-time greats.

“Look at this,” said Winfield, whose career took him to San Diego, New York, Anaheim, Toronto and his home state of Minnesota. “You have all these parents and kids and their first introduction to baseball at this level. People can be stuck in an office, all buttoned down and all, but we’re out here playing baseball with these kids, and that’s a great thing.”

“To be here with Dave is great,” said Lynn. “It would be nice to be on the same team just once. For 17 years I always played against him. It’s also great to see Larry King here. He would visit us frequently when I played for Baltimore. It’s also great to see all the kids and maybe do a little coaching while I’m here.“

Lynn worked with Beverly Hills and “offered a lot of enthusiasm and encouragement,” McAlister said. “And he and Dave were more than happy to sign autographs for everybody.“

Subway Restaurants announced Monday the first annual “Baseball Design Across America” tour, commencing with Tuesday’s Opening Day event. The tour will feature baseballs designed and autographed by celebrities that will be auctioned off to the public, with the total proceeds benefiting the Little League.

The tour will make stops in seven United States cities, including the final stop in Williamsport, Pa., at the Little League World Series, beginning in Los Angeles.

“The tour should be great,” said Winfield. “They have these baseballs that Fred, Larry and I signed and a lot of other people will sign during the course of the year, and the auction they have for them will continue to raise money for youth baseball around the country.”

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