By Erin Post
The Phillies led the way to Couples Field Saturday for the opening day of Little League season.
Sporting red caps and matching jerseys, some of the youngest members of The Valley's youth baseball and softball league gripped a banner that introduced onlookers to this year's players: A group that includes 12 teams and roughly 160 kids from ages 4 to 13 years old.
All clad in their own team colors, the players paraded down Route 100 Saturday morning along with a series of fire trucks, an ambulance and "Champ, the Lake Monster."
The group ended their trek at Couples Field for opening day festivities.
"It was perfect weather," said organizer Keith Monroe. "Everybody had a blast."
Parents and ballplayers recited the Little League oath, pledging sportsmanship and respect for others. Special guest John Egan, an extreme skier and head of Sugarbush's Adventure Learning Center, reminded players that setting individual goals and working hard to achieve them is the hallmark of a true champion.
"That's the competition you should be proud of," he said.
Teams played several baseball and t-ball games to mark the start of the season.
In preparing for opening day, Monroe said volunteers spent hours pulling weeds and cleaning up debris. The little league board of directors has also put in considerable time and effort, he added, as did local resident Stan Barosky, who has kept the fields mowed and in good condition for years.
Now, The Valley's ball players are practicing their batting and catching in preparation for games against teams from across central Vermont.
On May 12, the Little League is conducting a bottle drive. Players are slated to visit homes in the area for pick-up. Bottles may also be dropped off at Armstrong's Redemption Center.