Nothing like Lake Bluff Opening Day
Chuck Wenk and his pet parrot, Duke
Updated: May 27, 2012 8:18AM
I’m a sucker for Lake Bluff Baseball’s Opening Day! It’s tiny Lake Bluff at its best, as these wonderful volunteer dads and moms devote ridiculous amounts of time to the lucky kids who play in the Lake Bluff Youth Baseball Association.
Most of the games are at neat and tidy Artesian Park, where three fields are all named for Lake Bluff baseball families and past presidents of the league. Bob Troyer was one of the early presidents, and he and Mrs. Troyer were once again introduced to the amazingly polite and quiet Opening Day crowd.
Every town should have a guy like current President Gerry Phillips! This guy gives of his time to the Knollwood Volunteer Fire Department, the Boy Scouts, and when the Park District couldn’t fully support a T-Ball program for the 7- and 8-year-olds, Gerry created the “Pinto League” to compliment the older “Mustang”, “Bronco”, and “Pony League” levels.
Phillips gave a sincere talk to all the uniformed kids lined up by team about how, for at least a couple of hours, they’re “out in the fresh air in this beautiful park, away from your basements, the video games and I-phones, and playing in this town league with your friends and classmates. And even the few of you who might make it to the Major Leagues some day will look back on this little league as one of the best times of your life, because you’re playing at home, with your friends!”
Sometimes you see kids -- especially the youngest ones -- squirming, shoving each other out of line, but these kids were listening to every word Gerry said, and they took in shorter talks by Past Presidents Jim Moss and Rick Young without fidgeting.
Just before the ceremonies began at 9:30 a.m., Rick Young dragged the little combination microphone speaker system and CD player out of storage and realized that the mike was working but the CD player wasn’t, and his CD of the Star-Spangled Banner couldn’t be used. After asking several parents whether any of them might try singing the anthem (acapella, of course!), he decided to drive his car right onto the field, pop the CD into his car, and hold the microphone right inside the car window. And it worked! The Cub Scouts had no difficulty raising the flag to the Chevy-based anthem, and it all seemed like part of the plan!
My favorite part is toward the end, when the teams are announced in order and the kids all throw their caps in the air. The “Mustang” division decided not to pay the $3 per shirt “rip-off fee” that normally goes to Major League Baseball (for use of their registered team logos!) and instead adopted actual minor league team names like “The Savannah Sand Gnats”, “Wisconsin Timber Rattlers”, and “The Carolina Mudcats”. (No fee is due for those names!)
Other Board Members who meet all year long, even during the winter months, planning out the rules, practice locations, and Cooperstown trips for two very lucky 12-year-old teams include: Paul Stowe, Mark DiValerio, Joe Nolan, Tom Horan, Rob Davis, Scott Ireland, Tom Howe, Tom Halloran, Ken Landis, Chris Hambleton, and Kim Kauss. Because they put so much time in, without taking anything out, the kids are the beneficiaries.
Many more successful years to that wonderful organization!
Columnist Chuck Wenk is a Lake Bluff resident