Opening Day Returns for Norfolk Baseball
By Brendan Zimmerman
The sun shone brightly on April 30. The weather couldn’t have been better, or more representative of the spirit of baseball: the sky was sparkling, the air was warm with a soft breeze, and the winter blues felt like a distant memory – it felt like spring baseball again.
After nearly two years without an official opening day for Norfolk baseball, the town finally celebrated America’s pastime in person again. The event was filled with many people--families cheering on their kids, coaches readying their teams, and other residents all there to take in the return of youth baseball.
Opening day marks the official start of the baseball and softball season for Norfolk, which runs until late June.
The event began with a parade from the H. Olive Day School to the Freeman-Kennedy School. All teams from age twelve and below in both baseball and softball were invited to walk in the parade, with the route ending on the outfield of the baseball diamond at Freeman-Kennedy.
The parade itself is a symbol of town cooperation and unity – for example, vehicles are donated from the Norfolk Police Department; the Norfolk Fire Department helps and dedicates their time as well; the local schools must give their permission; and parents volunteer to help with the parade. It truly takes a village.
After the parade’s end, Norfolk Baseball Commissioner Barry Zimmerman, with the assistance of the President of Norfolk Baseball, Chris Curry, and the President of Norfolk Softball, Michele St. Laurent, oversaw the event’s proceedings and ran the opening ceremony. This opening day will be the last for Zimmerman, who will be stepping down as Commissioner after the end of this season.
The ceremony featured scholarships presented to recipients, a first pitch from Chief Stone of the Norfolk Police Department, and honorary service bats given to volunteers who have positively impacted Norfolk baseball over the years. By the end of the ceremony, those famous first words that start every season blared out over the loudspeaker: “Play ball!”
Baseball holds a special place in the heart of American culture, being one of the oldest, most popular sports here for centuries. It (and softball as well) serves as one entry point into sports for a lot of kids. For the town of Norfolk, baseball and softball act as a way for communities to form, and for families to come together.
Now, however, there are more sports and activities than ever before for kids to participate in. Sports like lacrosse, and even the options between private and public sports all war for youth participation. Does this mean baseball is losing popularity in favor of these other activities?
For Norfolk, the answer seems to be somewhat neutral for now. According to Commissioner Zimmerman, the number of kids playing youth baseball has remained steady over the years, even as options for activities have increased. He added that the kids are encouraged to pursue what’s of interest to them. If that means playing lacrosse and baseball, they’re given encouragement to do so.
Zimmerman also spoke of why baseball matters today for kids and families.
“They get to develop skills, learn things like sportsmanship, get to make friends and form a sense of community. For new families in town, T-Ball may be one of the first activities they participate in and get to know others. It teaches you discipline, self-accountability.”
Having an official opening day for Norfolk baseball and softball is a positive development after the last two years. In these complicated, uncertain times it’s a welcome change to have something reliable like baseball come back to an in-person celebration for the town, and for kids and families to participate and gather together to start a new season.
Play ball, Norfolk.