BACK IN THE SADDLE: Six Teams Squared Off on a Sunny, Breezy Opening Day That Had Been Delayed Twice

Mount St.Helens loomed beyond one outfield fence and a cargo train rumbled by as opening day launched for Twin Cities Babe Ruth at Stan Hedwall Park Friday.

It was a day that had been delayed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and one that some thought might never come this summer.

But America’s pastime ultimately came for the Babe Ruth program, thanks in large part from Twin Cities Babe Ruth president Bryan Porter, who’s spent the last few months working rigorously to make it happen.

“With everything going on, it’s a breath of fresh air to get back on the field and let these kids play baseball,” Porter said. “I’m thrilled. To get these kids off the couches and back on the field was what I was focused on.”

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Aaron's first baseman Brock O'Rourke gets a base hit against Eubanks on opening day Friday at Stan Hedwall Park.

A typical season starts the beginning of May during Mother’s Day Weekend. That was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then Porter was aiming for a June 22 start, but Lewis County moved into Phase 3 slower than anticipated, so opening day was moved back again to June 26.

Babe Ruth normally has a big opening ceremony each year, but this year Porter is doing the opposite and having a large closing ceremony to end the season with a bang on the weekend of August 1 and 2.

Porter was worried another delay might happen again when Gov. Jay Inslee announced mandatory face masks in public on Tuesday. The order went into effect Friday, which coincided with Twin Cities Babe Ruth’s opening day.

“I thought, ‘Oh, no, here we go again,’” Porter said. “Another roadblock. But we’re going to get through it. I put up as many safety measures as possible for these kids to be safe, and the parents to feel like their kids are safe at the same time. And to follow guidelines.”

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Aces pitcher Ben Johnson winds up to throw against C&C Development on opening day Friday at Stan Hedwall Park.

The league is about two teams shy of a normal season this year and there were some kids that backed out for safety reasons. Six teams squared off on Friday: C&C Development beat South Sound Aces 5-4; Eubanks Glass defeated Aaron's Lucky Dogs 10-1; and Les Schwab beat Fred's Discount 10-4.

Eubanks head coach Ryan Guenther said it was a welcome return to the grass and dirt.

“It feels great,” Guenther said. “It’s been a couple months we’ve had to wait for all this to try to get back to normal. Just getting on the baseball field feels awesome. A lot of us thought we weren’t going to be able to make it out here, but once we got the go-ahead it was, ‘Alright, boys, let’s go.’ These guys have been working hard. We’re all excited here.”

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Eubanks player Avery Staloch warms up in the on-deck circle in the first inning of his teams' matchup with Aaron's on Friday at Stan Hedwall Park.

Eubanks has been practicing the last month with very little time in the batting cages. Friday was the first time the team had seen live pitching this year. Guenther said there were some of the usual first-game jitters, even though it didn’t show. Eubanks scored nine runs in the first four innings and held on for a 10-1 win in five innings.

Guenther praised his starting pitcher Tucker Weaver, who pitched two scoreless innings, and his entire team for hitting the ball well.

“He threw very well for two innings,” Guenther said “A couple of our guys definitely squared some balls up. There’s definitely a lot of positives we can take from this game and build on.”

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