Malibu Little League opens 50th season

Above, Rick Wallace on March 9, 1986, the morning of his first Los Angeles Marathon. He had no idea he would still be going 20 years later. Below, Jonathan Friedman will run his first marathon this Sunday.

The little league celebrated opening day at Bluffs Park Saturday with speeches from Assemblymember Fran Pavley, Mayor Sharon Barovsky and former major leaguer Tommy Davis, who urged the kids to stay off drugs and in school.

By Kevin Connelly/Special to The Malibu Times

It’s about that time of year again to polish those cleats, oil those old mitts and clear the way for the hundreds of local youngsters who participate in Malibu Little League every year.

On Saturday, Malibu Little League celebrated its 2005 opening day at Bluffs Park, as well as its 50th anniversary as a league. The festivities-ranging from a rock-climbing wall, batting cages, souvenir stands, and three Jolly Jumpers-began with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m. The first game began at 8 a.m.

By the time the opening day ceremony got underway at 10:30 a.m., Bluffs Park was packed to capacity. There were so many locals at the event that parking was backed up more than half a mile on Malibu Canyon Road by 10 a.m.

With the Little Leaguers sitting in their new uniforms around the main-field diamond, Malibu Little League President Steve Ciniglio began the ceremony. To rounds of applause from the crowd, he said, “As we start this 50th season, we also come to celebrate an outstanding achievement accomplished by the efforts of many people. This year the city of Malibu will be purchasing Bluffs Park so our kids will always be able to play here.”

A tentative deal was recently reached between the city of Malibu and the state that will allow the city to purchase a 10-acre portion of Bluffs Park, thereby putting the ball fields under the ownership of the city. The state had previously ordered Malibu Little League to vacate the fields. The purchase is expected to take place later this year after an appraisal of the property is conducted

Ciniglio specifically thanked state Assemblymember Fran Pavley, who was in attendance, for her efforts in getting the deal done. Among many other people, Ciniglio also thanked the five Malibu City Councilmembers in attendance for their “tireless efforts to make this day a reality.”

“You have all done a great thing for our children,” he continued. “And it is a wonderful legacy. I thank you all.”

Assemblymember Pavley took the microphone next. “It is really a great pleasure to be here,” she said. “Three of my passions in life are children, the environment and public service. And it all came together in a wonderful solution.”

Ciniglio then introduced Mayor Sharon Barovsky, who told the crowd, “Somebody asked me, ‘What if it rains today?’ and I told them if it rains at least it rains on our park. My colleagues on the City Council have just been terrific.”

Joking, Barovsky continued: “Councilmember Jeff Jennings can now finally put this to rest. I don’t know what he’s going to do now that this has been settled, but I’m sure he’ll go on to other things. Play ball and have a good time. This is our park.”

After Ciniglio introduced each of the Malibu Little League teams individually, he called on former Los Angeles Dodger Tommy Davis to speak to the kids. He introduced Davis as one of the top National League hitters in the early 1960s, the winner of back-to-back National League batting championships in 1962 and 1963.

Davis said, “I’m always honored being at Little League openings because it reminds me of when I was a kid and we didn’t have these types of facilities. Coming from Brooklyn, we played on cement. I can look at the ocean here and play ball, which is unbelievable.”

“In Brooklyn you had to go six or seven miles to the ocean and it really was more like a river,” he continued. “Right now, everyone is in first place. Being in this game is a learning situation because you have to learn respect for one another, the manager, and you need to learn sportsmanship. All these things are part of growing up.”

Davis used an anecdote to encourage the kids to stay away from drugs and he preached the importance of education.

He and the Dodgers donated $1,000 to Malibu Little League for equipment.

The Little League games continued immediately after the ceremony and continued throughout the day.