Youth baseball and softball players made hits, rounded the bases, and made plays all around the diamond at Bluffs Park on March 5.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the players and their families seemed to have a lot of fun on the opening day of the Malibu Little League (MLL).
MLL president Nick Shurgot said having a good time is the most important thing.
“We are just here to have fun,” he said. “It’s little league, rec [recreation] league baseball. It’s competitive, but the number one thing is to get out here and have fun. We appreciated the kids and their parents being here.”
Opening day began at 8:30 a.m. with two games each on Bluff Park’s Majors and Pony fields. Then, at 12:30 p.m., the Opening Day Ceremony was held. The event featured all the little league teams—A’s, Braves, Brewers, Dodgers, Red Sox, and more—lining up in the infield of the Majors Field. The players and their managers held a team banner and walked around the bases after being introduced by an announcer to the cheers of their parents, who then sat with their sons and daughters on the field after they finished rounding the infield.
The ceremony also included the singing of the national anthem, the reading of the little league pledge by a group of players, and a few words from MLL alumni who talked about how important the league was to her when she was a kid. Additionally, Major League Baseball pitcher Conner Greene, from Santa Monica, spoke words of encouragement to the players and then signed autographs.
“I have a lot of friends from little league until this day,” Greene said. “We are still playing ball together now. Keep dreaming and keep playing. It’s a special thing. A lot of people tell you, you can’t make it, but it’s defiantly worth trying. Not only in baseball and softball but anything you pursue in life. Just work hard and enjoy it. Enjoy every second of it. These are years you are going to look back on. Enjoy every second of it. Have a great season.”
After the opening ceremony, there were two baseball skills challenge competitions then two more games. Vendors selling delicious meals and an area to purchase MLL merchandise were present throughout the day.
The youngest players in the MLL are ages 3 ½ and 4. They play tee-ball. The oldest kids are the 13 and 14-year-olds in the league’s Juniors division. The rest of the kids play in the AAA or Majors divisions. The girls who play for the MLL’s two softball teams are ages 5 to 10.
A majority of MLL games will be on Saturdays this spring, but some games will be played Tuesday to Thursdays weekly. The season runs until June 4.
Shurgot said close to 250 boys, and girls from Malibu and surrounding areas are playing in the MLL this season. Ninety children and preteens played in the league two years ago, and 205 laced up cleats last spring. Shurgot credited MLL personnel for working hard to get more kids in the league.
“We’ve tripled enrollment in the last two years,” he said.
Shurgot added that 50 girls are playing softball this season, which is up from 10 players in 2021.
“It was a concentrated effort to get girls into softball,” Shurgot stated. “It didn’t make sense that we didn’t have that many girls, so we reached out to parents. It was a lot of hard work.”
The league president said the MLL is making improvements to the facilities at Bluffs Park. The infield of the Majors Field was redone before the season, and the batting cage should be upgraded this year. Shurgot said the MLL also hopes to replace the snack stand, have a new irrigation system installed, and get new scoreboards for both fields.
Some of the MLL’s teams will qualify for District 25 tournaments in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills when the season ends. There will also be an all-star team that plays from mid-June to mid-July.
Shurgot said the MLL has a lot of talented players and coaches, so they could do well when playing competitions in other cities.
“That is one of our goals,” he said. “We want to have fun, but historically Malibu has never won a District 25 all-star championship. Our goal in the next couple of years is to win one.”