The Brigantine Baseball and Softball Association will hold its opening day celebration Saturday.
Festivities start with a parade at 10 a.m. that will wind its way from the Fire Department at 1417 W. Brigantine Ave. to the 26th Street Recreational Complex.
Island resident Jim Cali, a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a past player on the West Point baseball team, will throw out the first pitch. Cali, a Vietnam War veteran, is a starter in the Men's Evening Golf League at the Brigantine Golf Links.
After the parade, four games will be played including two in T-ball, and one each in girls U16 softball and Minor League Baseball.
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This season's overall turnout was strong, according to first-year Baseball and Softball Association President Chris Tate, as the league — which gained 501c3 nonprofit status this year — saw an overall increase from about 180 players in 2016 to 200 this spring.
The Little League division was expanded from five teams to eight, Tate said, and Brigantine's Little League players will compete against teams from Ventnor, Absecon, Mullica and Egg Harbor Township this spring.
All totaled the BBSA has nine baseball divisions and five softball divisions.
Baseball divisions consist of four T-ball teams for all children – boys and girls ages 6 and under; four Minor League teams for boys 7 to 9; three Little League teams for boys 10 to 12; and two Babe Ruth teams for boys 13 to 15.
In softball the breakdown is one U10 team and two each in U12 and U16.
Past President Bill Stroby will run Babe Ruth baseball, the only division that will play all its home games on the 42nd Street diamond adjacent to the Community Center. All other baseball and softball teams will play their home games at the 26th Street fields. T-ball players do not travel and only compete against other Brigantine teams.
Other baseball coaches this year include John Watson, Mike Stinson and Joe Mingoia. The softball commissioner is Margie Condurso, who is entering her eighth year at the post.
Condurso said the city of Absecon sought to field a U16 softball team but had too few players sign up, so the BBSA agreed to allow six Absecon girls to play on one of the two Brigantine U16 teams. Condurso's daughter Madison competed in the BBSA since she was 7 years old and is now the starting varsity catcher on the Atlantic City High School softball team.
“Some of the really young girls start out playing T-ball just to learn the basics of the game, but once they get to be around 9 or so they come over to the softball side since they can go on to compete scholastically in softball,” Condurso said. “That's what my daughter did.”
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Tate, who has three daughters in the softball program, said all the teams will have new logos designed by Brigantine students.
The winners were seventh-grader Kai Shellam for baseball and sixth-grader Madeline Heng for softball. Each will get a $50 iTunes gift certificate, and their designs will be unveiled at opening day. The logos will displayed on the dugouts throughout the season.
“We also have a totally refurbished snack shack that Vince Sarno has been working tirelessly to get ready, repainting it, cleaning it and putting in all new equipment,” Tate said.
"We'll also have a brand-new menu. George Moore and the public works department deserve a lot of credit too in helping us get ready.”
Tate said Watson ran the preseason fundraising, which included collecting about $2,600 for the league at a April 1 fundraiser at Laguna Grill & Rum Bar.
He said the organization has a revamped website, brigantinebaseball.com, that is sanctioned by Little League Baseball and sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods.
“The new site will allow us to have a lot more functionality in terms of being able to check out our schedules and the results of games,” Tate said, “and coaches will be able to communicate with their teams much better too.”
Condurso said the league would not be where it is today if not for the dedication and timeless hours of the coaches, and the parents' commitment to getting the kids to practice and to the away games.