Stands Full For Little League Opener

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Move over Boys of Summer, Payson Little Leaguers have stormed the diamond.

The rush of aspiring players hit the field for the first time April 1 at Rumsey Park during opening day festivities that included several rounds of games, sage advise from volunteer coaches and plenty of cheering from the proud moms and dads who filled the stands to overflowing.

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At the onset of each spring season, most baseball players are a little rusty, as were these two Red Sox who had trouble trying to scoop up an infield grounder.

Prior to an opener that pitted the Diamondbacks against the Red Sox, D-backs player Dalton Conway fidgeted in the on deck circle while Dane England of the Red Sox led the players in the Little League pledge.

"I'm ready to hit and get going," Conway said as he sprinted to the batter's box.

The 2006 season marks the return of the junior-senior league for 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds. Last spring, Payson Little League did not field a team partly because Rim Country Middle School hosted a squad made up mostly of that age group.

When RCMS did not field a team this spring, Little League brought the junior-senior program back.

About 30 teens turned out for the league that now has two teams.

Although a schedule has not been finalized, league officials hope to schedule games in Flagstaff, Winslow and the White Mountain communities.

In the major division, for players 9 to 12 years of age, depending on ability and experience, 72 players make up the Cubs, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Pirates and A's teams.

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Red Sox player Dane England led the Little League creed during April 1 season opening ceremonies.

In the minors, also made up of 9- to 12-year-olds, four teams and 52 players compete on the A's, Cubs, Red Sox and Diamondbacks.

This year, for the first time, 8-year-olds are allowed to participate in the minor division rather than being restricted to the "coach pitch" league as was the rule in the past.

The AAA or "coach pitch" league has about 60 aspiring players participating on the Giants, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Angels and A's.

Little League games are played Monday through Saturday on the Rumsey I and Rumsey III fields.

The players were selected for their respective leagues and teams during a draft held after tryouts held in March.

Payson is not scheduled to host any postseason area or district tournaments as the local program has done in the past.

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