Two members of the Chicago Ridge Athletic Association's Redbirds baseball team show off the masks they wore in Saturday's season kickoff parade. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 2, 2014 12:54PM
The weather may not indicate it on any given day, but baseball and softball season has returned to the Southland, as many youth leagues are up and running.
The Chicago Ridge Athletic Association’s baseball season kickoff Saturday had everything going in its favor, especially plenty of sunshine and plenty of community participation.
“This is the best day we’ve had in five years,” Chicago Ridge Athletic Association president Ron Dryier said, comparing the day with past years, when 6 a.m. preparations were taking place in the rain or cold. “Opening day, everybody’s excited about it.”
Fourteen teams, from T-ball to teen levels, decorated floats for a parade from Freedom Park to the baseball field at Commissioners Park.
The Richards High School Bulldogs band and color guard supplied music and entertainment, followed by grand marshal Scott Strache, the longest-serving CRAA board member.
Village police cars, fire trucks and utility vehicles sounded horns and sirens along the parade route, while spectators along the curb gathered candy thrown from the floats or followed the parade on bikes, carrying bags of found goodies.
“Our program is coming back to life,” parade chairman Rick Pratl said. “The new president and vice president are spreading community involvement and the spirit of our program.”
A presentation at Commissioners Park included Mayor Chuck Tokar, village trustees, park district personnel, baseball coaches, parents, volunteers and about 300 uniformed players who recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and listened to the CRAA pledge of good sportsmanship by players and coaches.
“We’re one big happy family,” Dryier said. “I can’t thank the park district enough. The trustees, the mayor, the parents and volunteers ... we all come together to make this happen.”
Chicago Ridge residents Joseph and Theresa Cella said they are very happy with the CRAA baseball program for their sons.
“We love the program because the kids get to have fun,” Joseph Cella said.
He said their son Joseph, 7, on the Patriots team, is in his second year playing with the association, and Dominic, 5, on the Redbirds team, is in his first year as a player.
Cella said the association has “team sports that are family-oriented.” He said he and his wife don’t miss a practice or a game and their sons’ grandparents come whenever they can.
If their sons’ games overlap, the Cellas said, “We just split up and rotate.”