On Saturday, East Athens Little League (EALL) commemorated its past and present during opening ceremonies at Satterfield Park.
As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, EALL celebrated its 50th anniversary by featuring current players, coaches and sponsors and longtime supporters of the program, which was once known as Athens International Little League for several years.
Presently, EALL has nearly 300 players, from ages 4 to 16, and teams from the softball, T-ball, Minor, Major and Challenger leagues flooded the field before the ceremonial first pitch, which was thrown out by Hardy Edwards IV on behalf of his father, Hardy Edwards III, who played in the first game at Satterfield Park in 1969.
“Back in the beginning of time – 1969 – I was the size of these 8 years old,” said the older Hardy, whose company Alpha D3 sponsors his son’s team. “There were three leagues in town – National, American, and when this started, International League. This field here was the most developed, the Major League field, but the Senior League field didn’t have an outfield fence, so if you hit a line drive, it would go all the way to the skating rink.”
Having thrown out the first pitch 50 years ago, Larry Day has been involved at Satterfield Park for much of his life.
“I played here, I coached here for 12 or 13 years and I’ve umpired here for the last 18 years, so I’ve been around here a little bit,” said Day. “I love it. East Athens needs more good things to
Tom Phillippo, who has been around EALL for almost four decades reflected on the changes the league has experienced in that time.
“It’s been almost 40 years since I came out here for the first time and things have changed just a little bit,” he said. “When I started, we had three fields, field maintenance was done by the parents and practice was wherever you could find a field.”
“We now have five fields and practices at several of the schools. We’ve got softball back again and I’m really glad to see that. When I started out here, you had to be 8 years old to play. Now it’s 4 – the earlier we get them started the longer we’re going to keep them. I’ll be here another year or two, the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”
Throughout the 80-year history of Little League, several communities with ball parks as their centers have organically arisen, providing support and encouragement to young people who may not receive much of that in other areas of their lives.
“This place was somewhat of a safe haven for me,” said Erek Scoville, who has played and coached at EALL for 20 years. “I was able to find a lot of male role models that affected my life greatly and I am very grateful for this place.”
The history of EALL is revealed in the stories shared by longtime veterans and that history provides the foundation for the continued success of the league.
“It’s exciting to hear the stories from the people within the community,” said league president Courtney Redmond. “Tommy Epps was introduced to me and he’s never been a public sponsor of a team, but he’s been a private sponsor for players who might need a little extra help, which is fantastic, because he knows the difference you can make in a child’s life by supporting them and giving them confidence and building a family around the ballpark”
Pat Cuneo started coaching at EALL when his oldest son Ben was 6. Now 16-year-old Ben is his dad’s assistant coach on the Rookie League Vipers, 6-year-old Henry Cuneo’s team.
“We’ve had good, consistent participation over the years and it’s great environment,” said Cuneo the elder. “We’ve got kids from all different schools and all different parts of Clarke County coming together. With our team, everybody knew each other’s names and were forming friendships by the end of the first practice.”
At the end of the opening ceremonies, another year of baseball began in earnest at Satterfield Park.
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