The Del Norte Litttle League kicked off its 2018 season with a little more pomp and circumstance than in recent years with an opening ceremony at Pyke Field. The ceremony included hundreds of young baseball and softball players in uniform as their teams were officially introduced.

The heart of this year’s opening ceremony centered around former Del Norte Little League and DNHS baseball player Zach Hegelmeyer, who died in February in a surfing accident in Bali, Indonesia. Hegelmeyer went on to play short stop and second base for George Fox University from 2011–14.

“One of the most important things that Zach learned about playing college ball is that it is not about your batting average or how good your stats are that people will remember you by,” Horner said. “It is your attitude on the field, and the way you treat other people. Zach loved everything about baseball.

“In all of his years playing he never gave up on the game. Even when the outcome looked bleak he always tried to rally his team to play harder and to come back.”

Although Hegelmeyer left California to play baseball in Newberg, Oregon, Horner said he never forgot where he came from.

“Whether he was playing for an All Star team, the Del Norte Warriors, the Eureka Sluggers or George Fox University, he carried with him the pride of growing up in Crescent City,” Horner said. “He loved this town — he called it home and wanted to represent it well.”

Hegelmeyer’s good friend and former teammate Layton O’Reilley then threw the first pitch of the Del Norte Little League season, followed by a moment of silence.

The ceremony wrapped up with each team releasing a blue balloon into the sky in memory of Hegelmeyer.

Del Norte Little League President Chris Rice, who took over the position from Mike Dixon this year, said this was the first time in several years that DNLL has opened the year with a ceremony.

“People have been asking for the last couple years about wanting to do it and we had a couple board members in Katie Smith and Megan Curtis who were really the driving factor in getting this done,” Rice said. “I don’t know if I would have done this if I had to do it by myself, but they stepped up and organized it all.”

Rice said the opening ceremony seemed to be a success, and will likely remain a part of the league schedule in the future.

“It was a great thing for the kids of all ages,” Rice said. “It would have been nice if the weather was a little bit better because we were hoping to have activities on one of the fields for kids that didn’t have games today, but we weren’t able to do that because the field wasn’t in good shape.”

Del Norte Little League has a total of 425 players signed up this year, including all the different divisions of baseball and softball, for a total of 36 teams. Rice said that is about 75 more kids than last year, with six more teams.

Most of that increase in participation has come in the various softball leagues Rice said.

“The softball side stepped up and we kind of maintained our good numbers with baseball,” Rice said. “We still have the same amount of baseball teams.”

Del Norte Little League’s season will wrap up in early June, and it will select its All Star teams about a week prior to the end of the season. Last season was a good one for Del Norte’s All Star teams, with all three squads taking first place in their respective district tournaments to advance to the Oregon State Tournament last summer.

Del Norte is hoping to have an even better showing this year as the Oregon District 8 tournaments will be held in Crescent City.

“The new board was really excited about it and went over to the meeting that they have. We haven’t sent a lot of people over there in the past, but they pitched all stars and it was granted to us,” Rice said. “It will be a lot of work for everybody but it will be exciting for Crescent City. It is going to be another Jaycees Tournament-type of stimulus to the community with motels and restaurants booking up. We see it as a big advantage, but it will be a lot of work, and we are going to need a lot of help.”

Rice said the league is hoping to have even more teams competing this year with four, or possibly even five Del Norte All Star teams.

Del Norte Little League’s games are all scheduled to take place Monday through Friday at Pykes Field.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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