Fairfield National LL starts season with event at Tunxis Hill Park
FAIRFIELD - You couldn’t help but hear the emotion pouring out of Dante Gallucci’s voice as he looked around the field at Tunxis Hill Park and spoke about the kids, the hundreds and hundreds of kids, lined up at the edge of the outfield grass, standing there under a bright and warm Saturday morning sun.
There were kids wearing red jerseys and blue jerseys and green jerseys and orange and purple jerseys, some daydreamingly playing with the infield dirt, others fiddling with their baseball gloves or their caps as Gallucci - for the 20th year - spoke during the Fairfield National Little League Opening Day ceremonies.
“It never gets old. Baseball is the greatest game. It never gets old seeing the kids come out here, the smiles on their faces, the fresh air,” Gallucci said. “To me, it’s like heaven out here. That’s why I keep doing it, it really is amazing to see the kids’ faces.”
Gallucci is in his 16th season as president of the Fairfield National Little League. When he first came on board back in 1998, along with Ron Tracy, Fairfield National had around 230 kids playing and even worse, was facing a $2,000 deficit.
Hard work and a love for baseball helped change all that.
“Now, we’re sporting a treasury of $130,000, we’ve gone from 230 players to over 600,” Gallucci said. “All of our teams (over 50) are sponsored … we have a
waiting list for sponsors, this league has grown tremendously over the last 20 years.”
As music from a local radio station echoed across the parking lot, the players from the various leagues got themselves into groups, preparing to march onto the field for the opening ceremony. And one by one, the teams paraded onto the field starting with the 5-year old T-Ball teams, 360 Corporate Benefits, Bigelow Tea, Fairfield Periodontics and Fairfield Rotary. Next, the 6-year old T-ball teams: Alene’s Ice Cream, Lesko & Polke Funeral Home, Marsillio’s TV & Appliance, Nutmeg Bowl, O’Reilly Electric, Universal Printing and Westport Autocraft.
The Minor B teams: All American Waste, Clubhouse, DICK’s Sporting Goods, F45 Training Fairfield, Mavericks Foam Coating, Stop & Shop and VanGo. The Minor A teams: Fairfield County Orthodontics, Five Oaks Landscaping, Kieran’s Place, Poland Spring and Saugatuck Sweets. The AA teams: Bella Sara, DeSantie Tire, Lanese Construction, Lesko & Polke Funeral Home and Plan B Burger.
The AAA teams: Coastline Fuel, Fairfield Police, Garden Catering, Gotham Sound, H. Smith Richardson Golf Club, Health Directions, Maritime Chevrolet and SportsClips and lastly, the Majors: Allen’s Ice Cream, Blanchette’s Sporting Goods, Five Oaks Landscaping, Guilford Sporting Goods, Little Pub, Lupe’s Drug Store, Maritime Chevrolet and Parkway Oil Company.
“This doesn’t (get old). This is my seventh year with the league,” Fairfield National Little League vice president Andy Schopps said. “My boys are 12, this is their last year, I started coaching when they were in T-ball and this is the best, a day like today, spending time with the kids, it’s priceless.”
A local girl sang the national anthem (very well, by the way). State Senator for the 28th District Tony Hwang was on hand, as was the three General Assembly representatives Brenda Kupchick (132), Cristin McCarthy Vahey (133) and Laura Devlin (134).
“It’s great to have all this support,” Schopps said. “This is why we do it. To get all the support from all of our local vendors and parents and partners and to provide baseball to over 600 boys and girls, it’s off the charts.”
After the opening ceremony, the regular season got underway with Five Oaks Landscaping knocking off Little Pub 4-2, Guilford Sporting Goods topping Maritime Chevrolet 12-3 and Lupe’s Drug Store tying with Alene’s Ice Cream 3-3 in Majors action, while Coastline Fuel won 19-12 over Gotham Sound, Fairfield PD shutout Garden Catering 12-0, Maritime Chevrolet defeated H. Smith Richardson Golf club 8-3 and SportClips beat Health Directions 12-10 in AAA action.
“I can’t even imagine (leaving),” Gallucci said. “Believe me, there are times when it gets hard and you have other commitments and you’re being pulled in different directions. But me … I have to be here for the kids because there is one thing we can count on year in and year out, and that’s baseball. It’s always great to stand out here on a beautiful day on a beautiful field and see all these young kids’ faces. It’s never not great.”