The rain kept them from playing ball, but two crowds of die-hard Little Leaguers and their supporters gathered Saturday on opposite ends of the Valley to celebrate the start of the season.
In Pacoima, the beleaguered Mary Immaculate Catholic Church Little League held opening-day ceremonies with a flourish, marking their field's rescue from demolition with a blessing from the San Fernando Valley auxiliary bishop, Armando Ochoa, and a riveting performance by half a dozen dancers in colorfully plumed Aztec costumes.
Community members had fought the demolition with picketing and Wednesday were able to stop bulldozers that had begun to ravage the Remick Avenue field. About 25 sponsors donated time, money and materials, and the field was rebuilt in time for Saturday's ceremony.
"A lot of people rallied to the cause and a miracle happened," said Manuel Briones, Little League Advisory Board spokesman.
"Because of your perseverance, faith and belief in justice, we turned the whole situation around," he told the crowd. "With the intervention of Bishop Ochoa, the field got a reprieve."
Ochoa is allowing the league, which had management problems, to use the field for at least a year. He received a standing ovation from the crowd of about 600 children and adults.
The league--16 teams of boys and some girls--opened in disappointment because rain soaked the refurbished field and games were canceled. Players were entertained, however, by dancers in Aztec costumes of feathers and glitter. A few even joined in as dancers whirled and stomped.
The first game of the season is April 4.
Meanwhile, in Northridge, about 700 Little League players and their families were honoring a city councilman and a man who spends nearly 40 hours a week keeping baseball diamonds in playing shape.
Seven fields on Devonshire Street were named the "Bernson-Hall Complex" on Saturday in honor of Councilman Hal Bernson and longtime volunteer George Hall, 66. Hall is a retired Lockheed flight-operations specialist who scrupulously maintains the fields.
"George Hall really deserves this honor," Bernson said. "It's true I had a hand in saving the fields . . . but it's guys like George who are the unsung heroes who just go out and slug it out every day. Everybody in Northridge knows he deserves this honor."
Hall's duties include mowing lawns, mending fences, painting dugouts, restringing catchers' mitts and sewing uniforms. He even scares gophers off the fields. But on this Saturday morning, he was trading compliments with Bernson and sipping coffee--the work could wait.
Northridge Little League players were to head out onto the diamonds again today. Games are scheduled for every afternoon this week.