For the first time since 2019, hundreds of players and families flocked to the Federal Way National Little League (FWNLL) fields for the Opening Day Jamboree on April 23.
An energetic sea dotted with colorful uniforms decorated the outfield as each of the 40 teams ran the bases, kicking off the spring season for baseball and fastpitch.
“[It feels] fantastic,” said Charles Heitman, president of the FWNLL, about the return to the field.
Spring season prepares young players for post-season all stars, he said. But on a larger scale, each season is an opportunity to spark a passion in these athletes.
“My job is to make these kids … fall in love with the game and keep playing in middle school, high school, college and hopefully professional,” he said.
Carin Smalley sang the National Anthem, and players Ally Weckhorst of the AAA Knights and Colt Marney of the AAA Angels read the Little League Pledge.
The league recognized player Elliott Russell of the AA Hooks for raising $7,626 for Federal Way National in 2021. A plaque on Legacy Field honors Russell and his family for their fundraising contributions.
Umpire in Chief Phillip Clark announced he was selected to umpire the senior softball regionals tournament this summer in Missoula, Montana.
The ceremonial first pitch for fastpitch was thrown by Olivia Foster of the AAA Knights to catcher Brookyln Newnom of the Majors Eclipse. Cameron Noel of the Majors Royals threw the first pitch for baseball to catcher Layla Noel of the AAA Knights.
This season, FWNLL is partnering with the Bridging A Gap (BAG) Feeding program for the “Blasts for BAG” fundraiser.
For each home run hit by a player this season, Land O’ Frost is donating a weekend bag of food to the BAG program.
Sponsors of Federal Way National Little League were also recognized on Saturday morning.
The sponsors are Kris Jolley of Evergreen Hydronics and Mechanicals; Dohn and Carol Johnson of Fast Signs Federal Way; Sharon Gentry of Curves; Eileen Wilson of Pacific Christian Academy; Mike Rutland of the Knights of Columbus Council #7528; Rich Hernandez of Haven Property Management; Darci Morris of ICON Materials; David Goretski and family of The Soggy Doggy; Whitney Williams of Legends Sports Photography; Josh and Jennifer Haglan of F-Dub Services; and Luke and Grace Dalrymple of Northwest Shippers.
Federal Way National Little League, started in 1959, is entirely operated by volunteers. Available scholarships and grants allow all kids to play, regardless of financial challenges, Heitman said.