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Wellsville Little League opens the 75th season at Hank Sinkey Field

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Read the opening day speech by league President CJ Rahr

By Andrew Harris

It was just about exactly as I remember it when I played on coach Noel Herberger’s team in 1988. Decades later, watching it through the lens of my 8 year old player, it is an amazing day for kids in Wellsville. The early morning firetruck rides are something you do not forget. The nervous first at-bat of the season, being part of a team, and of course the famous snack bar become indelible memories for many.

The coaches, statiticians, umpires, and league organizers are doing such a service to the community, and set such a great example. League President CJ Rahr, a longtime volunteer, runs a great opening day. It is reflective of the entire organization which seems to have evolved into a “gold standard” of Little League. Rahr spoke the hundreds of players, family, and fans who gathered around Hank Sinkey Field on Saturday morning. Here is a transcript of that speech and image of Rahr making his address on opening day:

“We would like to thank the volunteer firefighters from Wellsville, Willing, Scio, and Allentown for coming down this morning to kick of our season by giving the players rides on the fire trucks.

Last season was a successful one for our 10-12 year old All Star team.  The team was managed by Dan Helveston and coached by Keith Hoffman and Greg Cook.  This team won the District 2 Little League Tournament and advanced to play a best of three series in Rochester.  Coach Helveston could not be here today and many of the 12 year old players from that team are playing a modified game this morning at the varsity field.  We typically would unveil the pennant sign for the side of the building during this ceremony, but we will wait until the coaches and more players can be available.

This year marks the 75th year for Wellsville Little League.  That is quite an accomplishment.  This organization is one of the oldest Little Leagues active in New York State and we are still going strong.

There is no other sport quite like baseball because of the life lessons that can be learned from playing the game.  It is not always easy.  A pro in major league baseball is doing good if he gets a hit one out of every four at bats.  Baseball teaches how win, how to handle defeat, how to be a good sport, how to be a good teammate and how to recover from mistakes.  I think that is why so many volunteers are drawn to coach the game.

In 1939, Little League baseball officially formed in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  The league had three teams with the first game played at the original field at Memorial Park.

In 1947, the first Little League World Series was held.  At that time, Little League teams were only in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In 1949 – Wellsville Little League was formed to bring the then 10-year-old organization to Wellsville, NY.

It is difficult to stand here and talk about 75 years of this organization. Many of us don’t know the history of the past 75 years.  We serve to the best of our abilities and pass the reigns to the next generation of parents and volunteers.  I cannot speak and give proper credit to the many people and families and the time they have given to this organization, but I can thank the founders of Wellsville Little League for their leadership and thank the hundreds of volunteers that have come after. 

This milestone is more than just something special for Wellsville Little League, it is a celebration for the Wellsville Area. I could not imagine being a Little League President in any other town. Wellsville is about baseball and supporting its youth.  Anytime we have needed anything, there is always a person or organization willing to help.  The volunteers and our local organizations and business have made Wellsville Little League what it is today.  Thank you.

It is nice that we can gather today and celebrate the 75th year, but there is something more important happening, this Little League season. Although our league colors are the traditional Wellsville orange and black, our commitment is to the players from Wellsville, Scio, Andover, Whitesville and Belmont who are in our program. There should be nothing more important than the time we dedicate to them this season.  This is their game, not ours!  It is their time to play the game that many of us love. Parents, this is your time to enjoy watching the games. Sit back, be present and enjoy the years they have in LL and most importantly, ask your child after the game, “Did you have fun?”  Many songs have been written about how fast time flies, like Kenny Chesney’s, “Don’t Blink.”  I am a father of three.  All of my kids played in Wellsville Little League.  My mobile phone often brings up picture album suggestions from the times when they played.  I look back fondly and can’t help but be a little sad that those days have passed.  These years go by quickly, don’t miss them.  Let us all make this 75th year the best yet for our players in Wellsville Little Little….. It is their game!

At this time, we will do a ceremonial first pitch.

I would like to have Mason Cook step forward.  Mason is from Andover.  He is 12-years old and is playing in his last season in Majors.  Mason is the great-grandson of Hank Sinkey, a man who volunteered for 41 years in Wellsville Little League.

I would also like to ask Cali Ordway to step forward with her father James.  Cali is our youngest player this season.  Cali is going to throw out the first ceremonial pitch to Mason.

This concludes our opening ceremony.”

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