Little League Opens In Grand Style

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The 2003 Payson-Pine Little League season got off to a rousing start Saturday on the Rumsey Park ball field.

The celebration, which drew throngs of parents and players, began at 8 a.m. with the first of three minor and major league games that were played throughout the day.

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Thanks to his batting helmet, Payson Pirates Little League player Gunner Goodman was not hurt when he was struck on the head by a pitched ball. During the game, Goodman was struck twice by wild pitches. Goodman's Pirates dropped a 11-10 decision to the Cubs in opening-day ceremonies Saturday at Rumsey Park.

One of the mostly hotly contested games of the day was the opener in which the Cubs edged the Pirates 11-10.

Pirates coach Ty Goodman, a former Payson High School baseball star, said he's anticipating a banner season for the Little League program.

Among the most popular attractions was a wet sponge throw in which young players -- for the 25-cent price of a ticket -- had the opportunity to douse Little League umpires and officials. Participants included coaches Bob Halenar and Danny Savage.

Summer Kelley, an 8-year-old member of the Angels team, was a frequent visitor to the radar gun speed check, where she uncorked several fast balls that reached 45 and 50 mph.

Between turns, Kelley said she is eagerly looking forward to the season and plans on helping her team become a pennant winner. Kelley is one of about 10 girls participating this summer in Payson Little League baseball.

Also on the day, there was a barbecue, silent auction, water balloon launch and a jump pit.

Little League official Michelle Halenar said the kick-off celebration was a success.

"We think everybody had a great time," she said.

This season, 264 youngsters will compete in the program that features 22 teams in four age divisions. Regular-season action continues weekdays until June 20 in the farm, minor and major divisions. In the senior division, play wraps up June 27.

Payson is not slated to host any postseason area or regional tournament this summer.

All proceeds earned during the opening day program will benefit the local league.

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