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Softball’s opening day

Devon O'Neil/summit daily news
Summit Daily/Reid Williams Umpire Luis Amayo and Old Dillon Inn 40-Something catcher Anne O'Brien watch as Jacque Lyn hits a single for Sardly Hober in the first inning of play Tuesday at Silverthorne.
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Hot dogs were absent, the “kids” were twenty-something, and the day’s Gatorade equivalent had bubbles and came in a can. This was not the big league Opening Day that has defined warmth’s onset since America’s pastime began – it was better. At precisely 5:46 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, Summit County Softball – which this year includes 79 teams and more than 900 participants – kicked off its season on Breckenridge’s Kingdom Park South field with a spirited matchup between two Coed B League rivals, the Barley Pops and the Resonators. Yet the team names were rather irrelevant; what mattered most, it seemed, was that the addictive atmosphere which pervades Summit’s summer months – the laid-back feeling that life truly is grand – was back.

“It’s the official start to summer, it means summer’s officially back,” said Resonators shortstop Jesse True. “I miss these people during the year. I don’t get to see them all that much.” At this True paused, considering the other voids softball season promptly fills. He grinned. “Oh yeah, and I miss talking smack.”Given the chance to open the season for all, True and his teammates didn’t disappoint. Copper Mountain’s director of revenue by day, the slick-fielding, heavy-hitting True showed his fifth tool by legging out an RBI triple in the second inning to give his squad a 2-0 lead, after Scott Donovan had opened the scoring on an inside-the-park homer moments earlier. The cheery group, donned in red jerseys – some tucked in, most left alone – went on to beat the Pops 10-3 and claim the summer’s first official victory.Not that the loss dimmed the glow on the faces of the aptly named Pops (their bench, like those of the other coed teams on Tuesday, featured as many boxes of suds as foxes and buds). With Summit High softball coach Laura Wieher throwing often unhittable lobs from the mound, and outfielder Jon Straight turning in one of the plays of the day in right field, the squad put the defeat behind them with little trouble.

Because of a broken light fixture on the Kingdom Park North field, Tuesday’s action was limited to 11 games, instead of the 14 originally planned. But with many players fielding balls and swinging bats for the first time this year (“Nobody wants to practice, they just wanna play,” said SCS director Smoke Wilkins), the day kicked things off successfully nonetheless. As the Breckenridge evening wore on and the more serious and talented teams graced the field – Tuesday marked the debut of the newly formed Men’s Premier League, which keeps statistics and will surely push the competitive envelope – the just-happy-to-be-here laughs were replaced by shouts of fire and the need for wins. But despite the league, or gender, or skill, little could be argued of the day’s prime purpose: More than whether one’s team went home 1-0 or 0-1, it was the symbolic meaning of Summit County Softball’s opening day, the beginning of a three-month season that most would rather be twice as long.

Said Steve Jagentenfl, a 29-year veteran of High Country softball and a stalwart on the Quandary Grille Premier League team, “During the year we’re kind of off in our different directions. This brings us back together again.”Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at doneil@summitdaily.com.


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