Pasadena American Little League to Celebrate 65th Season With Saturday Opener

Published : Thursday, February 21, 2019 | 7:29 PM

The Yankees prepare to play The Cubs in the Pasadena American Little League season opener on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Courtesy photograph

Pasadena American Little League baseball celebrates its 65th year this season and festivities will mark the occasion on Saturday at Hamilton Park.

It will be a celebratory event and one of the anticipated matchups is The Yankees vs. The Cubs on the first day.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek is expected to throw out the first pitch.

“Pasadena is a City that values traditions and there is no tradition more deeply ingrained than the start of Little League,” he said.

While the kids work hard at the sport and play hard with their friends on the field, Little League is a labor of love for the parents.

“Opening day is something that the kids look forward to every year,” said Pasadena American Little League President Dale Pearson. “They have skills assessment in January and then there’s a lot of anticipation for this day.”

PALL was founded in 1954 as part of Little League International, which is youth baseball institution the world over. PALL is one of three leagues in Pasadena including Pasadena Southwest and West Pasadena.

Depending on where a player lives or goes to school, determines where they are eligible to play.

There was a merger a few years back and Central joined Pasadena American in 2016 and more fields more playing time. The benefit is more fields to play on because Central was playing at Victory Park Last year.

PALL’s 9-10-year-olds went deep into the state tournament championships last year.

“I think there’s a lot of pride that they were able to do that,” Pearson said. “They wear the all-star caps all summer long and I see a lot of pride among the kids.”

And that feeling is carrying over into this season.

“There’s tremendous excitement coming into the season because our All-Star teams for PALL did very well last summer,” said Cubs Coach Kevin Danni. “So there’s a lot of anticipation about this year’s season. We’re building on the success from last year’s All-Star season.”

Little League serves a purpose beyond just teaching baseball. It teaches sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty and overall it prepares the players to be good citizens, Pearson said.

And participation also helps create relationships that last a lifetime.

“What I’ve seen over the years is these kids start playing with buddies from school but it turns into a group of baseball friends,” Pearson said. “It’s satisfying to see these kids develop friendships over the years. I think they get a lot out of it. As a parent I’ve made some great friends too.”

Also, he noted, children who come in not knowing too many other kids wind up with a whole new group of friends.

The sport helps bring families together too.

Tonia Lain whose son is in Little League said she and her husband Jeff are involved for a variety of reasons.

“It gives the kids a sense of community, something to do and keeps them out of trouble when they get older,” she said. “And they love hanging out with their friends. Of course, I love seeing my kids happy.”

Tonia Lain and Jeff Lain own Kaddie Shack VW Parts on Walnut Street in Pasadena and went into their own business so they could participate in activities with their family.

“It’s rough when both parents work full time,” she said. “That’s part of the reason my husband opened the business — so he could have the flexibility to coach. If we didn’t have help at work it would be a lot more difficult.”

There are divisions to fit just about every age group: Challenger: Ages 4-14 T-Ball: Ages 4-6 Farm: Ages 7-8 AA Minors: Ages 9-10 AAA Minors: Ages 10-11 Majors: Ages 11-12 and Juniors (High School Prep): Ages 13-14.

The Challenger Division is a relatively new division, designed to cater to special needs participants. Challenger is baseball for intellectually and physically challenged youth and there is no cost to join.

PALL’s boundaries are roughly Washington Blvd. at the north, Michillinda Ave. at the east, Huntington Dr. at the south, and Lake Ave. at the west.

PALL is located in District 17 of Section 2, Southern California, and part of the Western U.S. Region. Other Leagues in District 17 are Santa Anita LL, Arcadia American LL, Central Altadena LL, East Altadena LL, Pasadena Southwest LL, San Marino National LL, Sierra Madre LL, and West Pasadena LL.

Older All-Star age groups can move on to section, state, and even regional championships. The 11-12-year-old group can go all the way to Williamsport, Penn., to play in the Little League World Series and that journey starts right in Pasadena.

In the meantime, the teams are focused on the task at hand.

“The Cubs are the two-time champions and that’s the team we’re playing Saturday,” said Tonia Lain, who’s team mom for The Yankees. “They won the last two years in a row. The players are good, the coaches are good and a lot of them have played together the last couple of years.”

“We’re battling Coach Lain and The Yankees and some are saying it might be the game of the season to start us off for the first game of the year,” Danni said. “Coach Lain puts in a lot of work with his players his players really respect him, I respect him as a coach and It’s going take our team playing very good baseball, but we’ve got some Cubbie magic and we’re going to go out there and have some fun.”

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