To make Little League® Opening Day special calls for a good amount of planning. Organizing an event that makes the parents and players smile and stokes their excitement for the season, can be accomplished through creative thinking, collaboration, and focusing on the community.
Help plan the fun and festivities by including these 10 items on your Opening Day checklist.
1. Player Parade
Give plenty of lead time by having the teams gather in a designated area at least one hour before the start of the parade. A few Board members can handle organizing the players, who should come dressed in regular-season uniforms, including their hat. If the teams will be walking on paved roads or parking lots, remind the parents beforehand to have the players wear sneakers and leave the gloves and bats in the car.
Order your teams by division. If your league has sponsor or division banners, have the players carry them in the parade. As the teams enter the field, have the League President, Vice President of the Division, or another Board member announce the teams by name and the names of the manager, coaches, and team moms as they walk out onto the field.
2. Opening Remarks
The League President, Vice President of the Division, or another Board member should welcome everyone to the ceremony.
As part of the opening ceremony, consider playing the National Anthem and reciting the Little League Player and Volunteer pledges.
3. Award Recognitions
If your league presents annual awards, invite special guests to make the presentations. Be sure to recognize the guests and provide them with a “thank you” gift for attending. One Board member can be responsible for ordering the awards and gifts.
It is important for the League President to speak to the teams and the parents to set a positive tone for the season. Tout the hope and expectations of the season, while encouraging everyone to act responsibly and to enjoy the games in support of the Little League experience.
If members of last year’s all-star teams are in attendance, cite their accomplishments, and remind everyone that the season does not end when tournament season begins. Remember to introduce and acknowledge the time and effort put forth by your current Board of Directors.
If your league has organized any raffles or other fundraisers that have prizes, use this time and audience to award the prizes. Have the Board member(s) responsible for the league’s fiscal accounting (Treasurer, Purchasing Agent or Finance Manager) oversee the distribution of the prizes. Also, welcome everyone to visit the concession stand for special “Opening Day” fare, and remind them to shop for league pins, tee shirts, lanyards, or any other league-branded items available for sale.
6. Ceremonial First Pitches
Welcome your special guests, or coaches and/or players from each division to throw out the first pitches of the season. This an opportunity to recognize a special volunteer, sponsor, player, or other local dignitary.
7. Fun Time
Invite the players to take part in some post-ceremony events like a home run derby, base running races, or other activities operated near the playing fields and overseen by members of the Board.
Make your final remarks, including any special acknowledgements, and be sure to announce the games to be played for the day, including their time and locations. Also consider mentioning when all-star selections will be announced, that players not on tournament teams can keep playing through the “second season,” and the proposed start date for fall ball.
9. Picture Day
With each team together and in uniform, Opening Day is a fine opportunity to have team and individual player pictures taken. Based on the length of the ceremony, playing games, and the number of teams in your league, consider building in times for a contracted photographer or volunteer approved by the Board of Directors to take the pictures. If you plan to organize a picture day, have each manager distribute a time and related materials, before Opening Day.
10. Remember Community
Little League® is a community-based program, so make Opening Day into a community event. Highlight what makes your community special. Invite the local news media, civil service organizations and clubs, first-responders, police and fire departments, and all of your league’s sponsors. Also, welcome anyone from the neighborhood by placing public notice in the local newspaper, and on your league’s website and social media pages.