Little League Celebrates Start Of 2008 Season

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If the upcoming Little League season is as successful as opening day, the campaign will flourish under the guidance of president Slade Gibson. During first-day ceremonies April 19 at Rumsey Park, the local sports program celebrated the start of the 2008 baseball season and the debut of Payson's first fast-pitch girls softball league.

Both baseball and softball games were played throughout the day on five fields at Rumsey Park.

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Payson Little League baseball and fast-pitch softball teams gather for the opening day ceremonies at Rumsey Park. A girls fast-pitch softball league was added this year in conjunction with the Little League play.

In them, more than 300 aspiring players donned their sparkling new team uniforms to showcase their diamond skills.

"It was a great day for the kids," Gibson said.

Also during the ceremonies, Gibson took to the microphone to thank the many volunteers who had stepped up to help the program get off to a roaring start.

"We are a small town, but we have many eager to help out," he said.

Among those he cited were Dave and Mimi Dailey for the husband and wife's help in hosting the opening day festivities that included -- in addition to the sports games -- live broadcast by KMOG radio, a picnic, snack bar, dunk tank, children's jumping pit, silent auction and plenty of old-fashioned, small-town camaraderie.

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Gunner Kleineindam slides safely into third during an April 19 opening day Little League game between the Cincinatti Reds and the Chicago White Sox at Rumsey Park, field No. 3.

"The Daileys did a great job," Gibson told the audience.

The president called the successful start of the season a team effort thanks to the contributions of Intermountain West, Goodman Excavating, Barnett Electric, Trinity Homes, Gary Richardson, Steve Perry, Payson General, Payson Parks and Recreation Department, Ken Schneider and the many coaches and volunteers who help organize and run the league.

Gibson took time to thank National Bank and its regional president Brent Cannon for the purchase last spring of a new scoreboard on the Rumsey III field.

Also, Gibson lauded those who helped found Payson's first Little League softball league saying, "We are so excited to get it going and about its future."

Currently, a board of 11 volunteers governs and oversees both the baseball and softball programs.

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Brittanny Proctor and Jewel Johnson chew on their drink straws as they listen to opening day announcements.

"It's a lot of work by them," Gibson said. "We couldn't have the program without the work of the board."

The leagues

This season the major division will feature four teams -- Dodgers, D-Backs, A's and Nationals.

Denver White is managing the Dodgers, Craig McMullen the D-Backs, Eddie During the A's and Brent Cannon the Nationals.

The buzz among the crowd about the major leaguers is that the rosters are filled with talented youngsters who have the experience of having been successful in the last two postseason tournaments.

"This is a great group," he said.

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Little League President Slade Gibson thanks the many volunteers during opening ceremonies Saturday.

In the minor division, the teams and managers include Giants (Joe Mendoza), Reds (Darren Keith), Rockies (Tony McNeely), Twins (Ken Schneider) and White Sox (Andy Haug).

The coach-pitch teams will include the Rangers (Donavan Christian), Yankees (Brian Bowman), Angels (Mike Conway) and Blue Jays (Jeremy Ricke).

In the major division of the softball league, teams and coaches are Az Heat (Bobbie Jo Haught), Chicago Bandits (Chris Perkes) and New England Riptide (Mark Runzo).

The minor division is comprised of the California Sunbirds (Shelli Creighton), Rockford Thunder (Dean Carroll) and Philadelphia Force (Chris Conway).

This season, all coach-pitch and minor league baseball games will be limited to 1 hour in length.

Major division games will have a 1 1/2 hours time limit.

Games will be played on the three Rumsey fields and Kiwanis West and East.

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Gunner Kleineindam slides safely into home and scores a run for the White Sox during an opening day Little League game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox, Saturday, April 19 at Rumsey Park, field No. 3.

The two Kiwanis fields and Rumsey III underwent renovations last spring that included being covered with professional-grade synthetic surface known as FieldTurf.

FieldTurf officials claim the new surface is "an idea that changed an entire industry."

The synthetic turf is touted as looking, playing and feeling like grass.

The infill is a patented mixture of smooth, rounded silica sand, rubber granules and "Nike Grind," which is recycled Nike sports shoes.

That, combined with the tall pile fabric (grass) and the distance between the rows of fibers, keep the surface from compacting.

The manufacturer said the state-of-the-art surface reduces player injury, a claim former Payson Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind said led him to recommend the FieldTurf purchase.

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