By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – While there wasn’t a lot of snow and temperatures weren’t too bad, it just seemed like this past winter bordered on the intolerable.

But that was then and this is now. And Harlem Community Center has kicked off another summer of baseball and softball games. The annual stadium parade involving players and coaches was held Saturday morning before the customary large crowd in the bleachers at Harlem High School.

In all, this year’s contingent has 57 teams and 710 players. There are 10 T-ball teams for the youngest; eight Coach Pitch baseball teams for boys and four teams for girls; nine Pee-Wee baseball teams with five Pee-Wee softball squads; and eight Midget baseball teams, with five Midget softball teams.

For the older kids, middle school and early high school age, there are three Bantam Boys baseball teams and five Galaxy Girls softball teams.

Opening day saw 31 games on the schedule, with some teams playing doubleheaders.

The most were at the T-Ball and Pee-Wee boys levels, with a total of five each.

Mayor Jerry D. Bolin was one of the featured speakers during opening ceremonies.

“I’m very happy to represent Machesney at the opening-day ceremony – HCC boys and girls summer ball for 2016,” he said. “This year 700 young athletes will enjoy the summer months, as their fellow teammates and coaches entertain families and friends with good-old American ball games.”

Every team is a winner, he said, and they are assets to the community. “From the first pitch to the last, enjoy the game and have a great summer.”

HCC board member and longtime supporter of the center, Harlem Township Assessor Mark Sorrentino welcomed everyone to the event.

He referred to the large assembly of boys and girls as “a rainbow of kids,” whose uniforms displayed a vast variety of bright colors.

An assistant varsity football coach at Harlem High School, he stressed the importance of the players improving their athletic skills while building character. The summer experience helps them learn what it means to be on a team and working together.

He paid tribute to the parents and grandparents in the audience that morning for their contributions to the HCC program.

HCC is more than recreation and sports. He cited the Hand in Hand day care and early education center that’s next to the baseball and softball fields, along with large playground.

The center, now in its second full year, has a capacity of about 180 youngsters and, he said, it has “enhanced HCC’s ability to give back to the community.”

After some announcements, it was time to play ball. The HCC season will continue into August, when season-ending tournaments will be held at most levels.

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