Play Ball! Malibu Little League kicks off 2023 baseball and softball season

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Michael O'Brien (front left, in green) and Patrick O'Brien (front right, in red) accept a plaque from the City of Malibu. The O'Briens are joined by members of the community who knew their father, Doug O'Brien, who was being honored. Photo by Emmanuel Luissi/TMT.

Local baseball legend honored on Opening Day of the 66th Malibu Little League season

On a picturesque day at Malibu Bluffs park, hundreds of Malibu Little Leaguers were joined by their families to kick off the Spring 2023 baseball and softball seasons.

The 66th Malibu Little League Opening Day closed with a ceremony that celebrated the history of the league, and specifically honored the great Doug O’Brien, who was instrumental in building the two baseball fields at Malibu Bluffs Park and served as a volunteer and coach for Malibu Little League for nearly 30 years.

Malibu City Councilmember Marianne Riggins presented a plaque to the O’Brien family on behalf of the city in appreciation for his 27 years of service to the Malibu community. The plaque was accepted by Doug’s sons, Patrick and Michael. 

“He raised up and made it possible for every one of us to be standing here now. He fought hard to make sure this field would be here and we want to make sure that he is honored for years and years to come,” Riggins said. “This plaque is presented to the O’Brien family, with our greatest appreciation for your father in his 27 years of dedicated service, devotion and commitment to Malibu Little League.”

Patrick O’Brien asked members of the audience who were coached by his father or knew his father through baseball to step forward and join him in accepting the plaque of appreciation.

He said it was not just his father who helped the league succeed and grow over the years.

“It took everyone behind us as well as so many other people who have called Malibu home over the years,” O’Brien said. 

O’Brien then highlighted the present success and bright future of Malibu Little League. 

He honored MLL President Nick Shurgot with a custom Malibu blanket banner that featured an image of Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach, as well as the slogan, “Malibu … A Way of Life.”

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Michael and Patrick O’Brien, sons of longtime Malibu Little League volunteer and coach Doug O’Brien, present Malibu Little League President Nick Shurgot with a custom Malibu banner. The O’Briens praised Shurgot for his dedication to the growth and success of Malibu Little League. Photo by Emmanuel Luissi/TMT.

He praised Shurgot’s dedication and efforts for the continued success and growth of Malibu Little League and said he was proud to see his father’s legacy continue to be built upon by residents like Shurgot.

“This is the next generation to carry on what my father may have started and certainly hasn’t finished,” O’Brien said.

Shurgot said it felt great to be honored by the O’Brien family and said Doug left behind a great legacy. He said it’s a good feeling knowing he’s helped serve the youth of the community and has made a mark in the history of MLL.

“To be a small part of Malibu Little League in its nearly 70 years is really special and really rewarding,” Shurgot said.

During the ceremony, Shurgot applauded the MLL board members for their dedication to the preparation of the season and opening day.

“The board is super strong, the strongest it’s been in a long, long time,” Shurgot said. “There’s a lot of great folks on the board who spend a lot of time, hundreds and hundreds of hours over the last year, getting ready for today.”

Shurgot was proud to say the league has grown significantly, and hopes to continue that growth over the next couple of years. He said the families of Malibu are responsible for the growth of the league and said they should be proud of where the league is going.

“We’re up to about 275 kids, which is almost three times the size of the league in 2019,” he said. “You guys deserve all the credit, the parents and the players for showing up. Two games a week, a couple practices a week, I know it’s a ton of work and we appreciate it. There’s a lot more to do so we appreciate you guys. We’d love to get over 300 next year.” 

The league has also tripled sponsorship revenue since 2021, allowing the league to invest in new equipment and facilities for the kids.

“New scoreboards have been ordered and will be installed during spring break and we will also upgrade the irrigation system on the Majors and Pony field to keep our new infield material soft and playable,” Shurgot said.

MLL Vice President John Alfano said Opening Day is the day where board members can enjoy the fruits of their labor, and said to bring joy to the children of Malibu makes it all worth it.

“We start back in November, talking about fundraising, talking numbers, who can coach, who the sponsors should be, all these sorts of things,” Alfano said. “Then this is the time where we get to see all the hard work for 275 kids, it’s nuts. 270 kids from Malibu, that’s like more than half of the population of kids, it’s cool.” 

He said the Opening Day festivities were a huge success.

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Malibu Little Leaguers and their families gather in the infield during the Opening Day ceremony on March 4. Photo by Emmanuel Luissi/TMT.

“Seeing kids smiling ear to ear, running through bubbles,” Alfano said. “Seeing the legacy players dating back all the way to the ’60s, coming out in their jackets mean so much to younger guys like us. It makes it all worth it. We’re making real life lessons out here.”

After the first day of play, Alfano said the community should expect competitive baseball throughout the season.

“A lot of these kids really brought,” Alfano said. “What we saw this morning was a lot of hitting, great pitching, and kids who really came to be aggressive and play. They’re really involved.”

President of Softball Operations Laura Angotti said Opening Day is the culmination of efforts not just by board members and volunteers, but for the kids who are ready to compete and strengthen their softball and baseball skills.

“Watching these girls come together as a team and play so well means a lot,” Angotti said. “To see them in their first game to be pitching well, hitting well, making plays; it’s just exciting to see it grow.”

She said the inclusion of softball in the spring season is very important to the community. She said softball gives girls the opportunity to build on their social development and to hone their physical talents.

“We’re going to produce some amazing pitchers, play at the next level, and watch these girls gain a lot of confidence, build their self-esteem, and create friendships that will last a lifetime,” Angotti said.

The league is set to have a season that is sure to see a lot of strong competition as well as opportunities for kids to come together and build strong relationships. 

Residents can keep up with the league by following Malibu Little League on Instagram, @malibulittleleague, and by visiting MalibuLittleLeague.org.

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Michael O’Brien (front left, in green) and Patrick O’Brien (front right, in red) accept a plaque from the City of Malibu. The O’Briens are joined by members of the community who knew their father, Doug O’Brien, who was being honored. Photo by Emmanuel Luissi/TMT.