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By Paul Lonardo
The Smithfield Girls’ Softball League (SGSL) is celebrating its 47th season of action, and this year it will be extra special because it will mark the first time that the town’s softball and baseball leagues will be having their opening days together, sharing the same festivities and fields. Although the leagues have already begun playing regular season games, Opening Day is an annual rite of passage that officially marks the start of the new season. This year it took place on April 28 at Whipple Field at noon. The event was kicked off by a parade beginning at 10:30 a.m. Boys and girls from both leagues participated, about 500 players collectively. They started from St. Michael’s Church on Farnum Pike, which served as the staging area. From there, the parade proceeded along St. Michael’s Way, down Whipple Avenue to Fenwood Avenue, and then into the Whipple Field Complex, where the ceremony took place. There was a traditional salutation, and speakers addressing the players, parents, coaches and other supporters. Players were introduced, an Honor Guard was present, the National Anthem was sung, and the First Ball was thrown out.
There was a full slate of games on the schedule in both leagues, which began immediately after the ceremony. Typically, the Smithfield Girls’ Softball League plays all their games at Whipple Field, while the boys have a select number of fields around the town where they play. However, on this day, four fields at the Whipple Field Complex were used simultaneously by the boys and the girls, and they played right through until dusk. Then, around 7 p.m., there was a brief break in the action between games while a few words are spoken in recognition and appreciation of the new lights at the fields, which were switched on for use for the first time by the SGSL. This night, there were our night games being played simultaneously, two girls’ games and two boys’ games.
The lights had actually been installed a couple seasons ago, but they had not been authorized for use until last fall, after the recreation league season was over. Going forward, a select number of softball games will be played on Friday nights under the lights, which all of the girls in the league are sure to enjoy.
The SGSL has teams competing at several age levels this year, including 6U, 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U, with four to five teams in each age group. The amount of teams that are carried is dependent upon the registration numbers, and girls from other towns are always welcome to play. While they do attract players from many neighboring towns, the league is predominantly made up of Smithfield girls. Stephen Keene, the league’s Public Relations Director, sees an uptick in the registration for the younger girls, but a slight drop off with the older girls in the 16 and 18 year-old age range, which Keene says is not at all unusual because these are ages where former players start to get their driver’s licenses and get involved in other activities in high school, or may be going to college or working part time.
The SGSL is instructional but also competitive, and always fun. In the U6 and U8 divisions, the coaches pitch to the players, but once players get into the U10 and above, the girls pitch to each other, and it is fast pitch.
Opening day this year promises to be memorable, and that’s just what the planners of the event were striving for. Mario Vendittelli, the President of the Smithfield Girls’ Softball League, and Shane Moore, the President of Smithfield Little League, along with members of their boards, put a lot of work into organizing this special day.
“We wanted to do it the right way,” Vendittelli says. “We want it to be an experience for the boys and the girls. Something fun. Something different. There aren’t many events that bring the town together, but this was one of them. And that’s ultimately what it’s all about. Baseball is baseball and softball is softball, but at the end of the day, we’re all residents of the town.”
What more can you say, except; “PLAY BALL!”
For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/smithfieldgirlssoftball/ or contact Mario Vendittelli firstname.lastname@example.org