County Supervisor Kathryn Barger looked on at the youthful, noisy crowd permeating with excitement and anticipation.
She saw hundreds of enthusiastic kids interacting with each other in their baseball uniforms, proud parents embracing their fellow parent cheerleaders, and opposing coaches exchanging friendly banter prior to their games.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Barger, who represents the county’s 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley. “I look around and see the kids standing on the mound, high fiving, laughing, eating doughnuts, and just hanging out. This is probably the most important thing that we can do for our youth right now.”
It was Opening Day for the Santa Clarita Youth Baseball League’s 2022 spring season at the Castaic Sports Complex Saturday morning. Players, coaches and parents from all teams gathered around the diamond and participated in the opening ceremony that included Barger’s ceremonial first pitch.
Barger threw out the first pitch in 2019 after she helped the league move from Rick Robb Memorial Baseball to the Castaic Sports Complex. She said it was exciting to throw the first pitch again to officially begin the Little League season, especially after seeing the challenges families had to endure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For these kids, this is normal and I want people to get back to normal,” Barger said. “I want kids to be able to be kids and compete and have fun.”
After growing up in a baseball family, Barger said helping the league move was a “no brainer” because she knew how integral youth baseball is to the Santa Clarita community.
“[Little League] is a fabric of this community,” Barger said. “My job is to make sure that the communities that I represent get the services they deserve.”
Jim Robbins, president of the Santa Clarita Youth Baseball League, said the league had only half the registration they usually have when they started the fall season, but the registration numbers are back up again.
“This is our first season where we’re coming up to where we were originally with registration numbers,” Robbins said. “So it’s nice to see everybody getting out because we all put a ton of work into this.”
Robbins said he noticed some of the kids who played in the fall league lacked confidence and social skills, but with registration being up for the spring season, he is encouraged to see what this season has in store.
“[The kids] love getting out there and playing with each other,” he said. “They have a great time. They’re dancing, running around, making friends and learning baseball. It’s what it’s all about.”
Santa Clarita resident Rachel Carter said her son Robert, 11, is on the Dodgers this season and she is thrilled to cheer on her son.
“Every coach, all the teams and all the parents are just so supportive,” Carter said. “We’re all here to watch our kids have fun playing the game they love.”
After Barger threw the first pitch, each team competing in the league paraded around the infield, giving parents opportunities for photos of their children and their team.
“This is what it’s all about,” Barger said. “Everything I do policy-wise is great, but when I come out here and do this kind of thing, it helps to re-energize me, stay focused and remember that at the end of the day this is what it’s about.”