Correction, 3/17/21, 11 a.m.: A previous version of this post misidentified Ryder Valentine in the photo above. The Gabber apologizes for the error.
Gulfport Little League kicked off their 2021 season with glee on Saturday, March 13 at Tomlinson Park. Kids, coaches and residents alike heralded the return of ballpark sounds that have been silent since the 2020 season came to an abrupt end during the COVID shutdowns.
At 10 a.m GLL President Trevor Mallory, a former Toronto Blue Jays player, announced the beginning of the new season; a big day for Gulfport baseball lovers. The announcement preceded a surprise first pitch by Gabber Newspaper owner Cathy Salustri Loper.
“I’m glad to do it for these kids,” Mallory said. “I believe in giving back to the community and providing an outlet. I know baseball kept me out of trouble and off the streets.”
Organizers note that Gulfport Little League strives to be highly inclusive, with low registration fees, no tryouts and options for all players between the ages of 4 to 14.
According to Sponsor Coordinator Bruce Donath, Gulfport Little League charges $50 to participate, while some other area leagues cost close to $120 in fees per child.
“It’s never really about the score,” Donath said in the midst of a game on Saturday. “It’s about being inclusive. I see Gulfport playing a very important role in having an inclusive league and maintaining the beautiful fields in the area.”
The 4 year olds may not be fighting for wins tooth and nail, but the pre-teens take Little League seriously.
“Sports like this can keep the kids positive, keep them worrying about their GPAs,” Mallory said. “I know it did that much for me.”
The final score of the older group’s game against Seminole was 14-6, with Gulfport nabbing the win.
“A lot of local people have baseball in their hearts, and these people [in the community] make this possible,” Donath said. “We’re so happy we have a good lease and that people here really care.”