The Greater Loudoun Lions kicked off their Babe Ruth World Series experience Friday night at a banquet at Loudoun Valley High School to welcome all 10 tournament teams to Purcellville. The more than 200 community members in attendance greeted the Lions, the designated host team for the event, with a standing ovation.
"We've been preparing for this all summer," said outfielder Brandon Ballentine, a junior at Potomac Falls. "So it's great to finally be here. We're ready to get started."
Barring any weather-related delays, opening ceremonies were scheduled for yesterday morning at Fireman's Field, with four games to follow. Before play started, though, the players were treated to some observations from former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor, the guest speaker at the banquet.
"Thirty years from now, you'll reunite with your teammates and still be talking about all this stuff," said McGregor, who was with the Orioles from 1976 to 1988. "It'll be a memory you'll never forget."
McGregor easily recalled his own playing days in Babe Ruth, where his 13- to 15-year-old team from Maryland won a World Series title in 1969 in Illinois.
"I threw one game against a team from Springfield, Ohio, and their very first batter hit a ground ball that he barely beat out at first base," said McGregor, breaking into a sly smile. "That was the only hit they got the whole game. See, you remember that stuff.
"I remember it all -- everything from the games to the host families and parades and all the other hoopla -- and I hope these kids will, too."
Weather, or Not
Hurricane Charley was the hot topic at Friday night's event as players, coaches and fans speculated about what kind of havoc the potential rains might cause.
"It says there is an 80 percent chance of rain this weekend," said Greater Loudoun outfielder James Timbers, checking the weather through an Internet connection on his cell phone. "And that's not good."
But Dale Polen Myers, the chairman of the local organizing committee, said dealing with significant rain three years ago when Purcellville last hosted the World Series was beneficial in one regard.
"We had the bumpy road before, now we're ready for it," Myers said. "We know how to tarp the field and un-tarp the field, and how to evacuate and get teams into the roller rink behind it. We even know to make the players take their cleats off before they go in. And we know to keep the buses running so that if we have to play until 1 a.m., the buses won't stop at 11. It's all under control."
The Loudoun Board of Supervisors declared yesterday as Don Rose Day in the county in honor of the Babe Ruth state commissioner who has dedicated himself to youth sports in the area for more than 32 years. Rose was set to be honored in a pre-game ceremony last night before Greater Loudoun's opener against Alabama. The scheduled festivities included the unveiling of an official Don Rose Lion mascot and Rose being asked to throw the game's first pitch.
"We wanted to salute Don for all his years of service," Myers said. "We wanted to do something to let him know how important he is to all of us."