ABILENE – The Southern Little League kicked off the 2016 Little League Baseball season with a catered dinner on Friday, April 1, and festive opening ceremonies Saturday, April 2, complete with food trucks, games and a keynote address from former major leaguer Jimmy “The Rookie” Morris.
Nearly 100 community members attended the Meat on the Mound dinner Friday night, where Jimmy “The Rookie” Morris provided the event’s keynote address. Morris’s story of his rise from Texas high school baseball coach to major league pitcher is the subject of the 2003 Disney movie, The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid as Morris.
Due to inclement weather, the dinner was moved from the Southern Little League fields to a hangar at Abilene’s Eagle Aviation Services. With a brand new American Airlines jet parked in the hangar, the last-minute venue change was a source of much excitement for children and youth in attendance who were invited to climb aboard the plane and tour the cockpit.
On Saturday, April 2, with clear skies, a crowd of 500 including baseball players, their families and other community members, gathered at the baseball diamond to celebrate the announcement of the 2016 Southern Little League Baseball teams and coaches. The crowd enjoyed food trucks, prizes, kids’ games, a silent auction and a homerun derby. Homerun derby winners were awarded in four age groups: Jayden Carrillo (8 & under), Dylan Lujan (10 & under), Colin Hayward (12 & under) and Billy Jackson (18 & over).
Silent auction bidders competed for a Juan Gonzalez autographed baseball jersey, and an autographed Josh Hamilton photo – but the most popular item was a one-hour pitcher’s mound session of pitching lessons and tips with Jimmy “The Rookie” Morris.
Jimmy Morris served as the Official Grandmaster of the Little League Opening Ceremonies. In his remarks, he encouraged the little leaguers to follow their dreams.
“Watch out for the dream-killers,” Morris warned the youth. “They come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t let them get to you, and don’t let anyone tell you not to follow your dreams.”
Morris also acknowledged April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, cautioning that abuse can happen to whom, where and when its least expected, and imploring parents and children to be aware of the signs.
“Keep a watchful eye,” Morrs said, “and if you’re uncomfortable discussing it, keep BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene in mind, they’re here to help.”
BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene partnered with the Little League to support the event. BCFS-Abilene operates parenting education programs, support groups for dads, and programs that help youth from foster care and other challenging backgrounds transition into adulthood.
“The partnership with Southern Little League gave us an opportunity to build new relationships in the community,” said BCFS Director Emily Cole. “We are proud to provide youth and families across Abilene with parenting support groups and simple tips on how to improve the peace and communication in the home. Every family can benefit from additional resources and support.”
Proceeds from ticket sales for Meat on the Mound and the silent auction benefited Southern Little League players. The funds will cover the cost of grounds updates, maintenance and new baseball equipment – as well as a scholarship fund for children from low-income families to pay little league fees and join a team.
Community partners who sponsored the weekend’s events include Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Texas Screen Printers, Western Bank, D1 Sports Training, and Dr. Jay and Nancy Capra. Abilene Portable Buildings and Suite Life Pet Resort and Spa donated silent auction items.
To learn more about BCFS Health and Human Services-Abilene, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/Abilene or call (325) 692-0033.
BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.