Here’s how it was Saturday at Memorial Park:A sunny day, a band playing, hundreds of youngsters running around and trying on their new uniforms, dignitaries being introduced and parents taking pictures.This is pretty much how it’s been for 55 years as Santa Monica Little League opened another season and produced another gala community event.Todd Gelfand, the league president for the third year, put it all together, with the help of a volunteer staff and civic-minded community members.Shortly before noon, the many youngsters who were tossing baseballs on two diamonds, along with their parents, were asked to sit on the grass. They stood to salute the flag, then settled in for the ceremony. The gathering of about 800 was addressed by former Dodger outfielder Lou Johnson, a member of the team’s community relations department and an inspirational speaker.The Dodgers have often supported the event. Last year, former Dodger catcher Steve Yeager was the speaker.Among those winning thanks were the Santa Monica Police and Fire Departments, the Parks and Recreation Deptartmment and City Councilman Kevin McKeown.The crowd was told that a couple of former players in the league made it to the major leagues. Pitcher Tim Leary and outfielder Rick Monday both played for the Dodgers and other teams. After playing in the Santa Monica Little League and going on to Samohi and Arizona State, Monday became the No. 1 pick in the first baseball draft. He is now a Dodger broadcaster.Leary has served as pitching coach at UCLA following his playing days.Cody Decker. who gained attention as a home run hitter in the Santa Monica Little League, had a brilliant career at Samohi and is now a freshman at UCLA. On hand Saturday were representatives of Sunset and Santa Monica Palisades Masonic Lodges and the Santa Monica Elks. They provided free child ID service, giving youngsters their photos and a copy of a thumbprint. They were assisted by volunteers from the Order of the Eastern Star of Santa Monica.Games will begin this weekend and will continue through June, when there will be all-star tournaments.It was a big day for youth sports in the city as teams from Santa Monica Fast Pitch began their softball season on adjoining diamonds.
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