Bolden Little League players hit off their sixth season Saturday, beginning with an honorary first pitch from Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.
Ten teams, including more than 100 children and their families, gathered at Kianga Isoke Palacio Park in the Historic Westside for opening day.
League President Mario Berlanga started Saturday’s games by thanking those who helped raise money after the league’s equipment was destroyed in a fire in February.
Berlanga told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the blaze that the league needed to recover $23,000 in losses and raise the $20,000 usually needed for field rentals and uniforms each season.
“If you look around at all the kids that are playing, it’s because of our community and our supporters,” he said.
Kevin McMahill and Robert Plummer — former Bolden area command captains for the Metropolitan Police Department — and current Capt. Timothy Hatchett, along with several politicians, spoke before the first pitch. Lombardo spoke briefly, asking for a round of applause for the coaches and teasing that he would know who is rooting against him when he threw the ball.
“Fundamentally, when it all comes down to it, we all need a little baseball,” Hatchett said. “Baseball teaches you how to win, lose, be good characters and play within the rules. Fundamentally it teaches us at a very early age how to be leaders and how to work as a team.”
The free intramural league is open to kids through eighth grade. The idea stemmed from Plummer and Berlanga’s work beginning in 2017 and has been credited for significant declines in crime in the neighborhood.
“I asked Mario what it was this community needed, and he said baseball, America’s pastime,” Plummer recalled Saturday. “Now, we’ve got scoreboards, a lot of community support and we’ve got the most important thing: Crime is down in this area.”
Carlos Martinez said this is his 13-year-old daughter Rosalee’s first year with Bolden’s Bulldogs. The girl wanted to join a family friend who was already on the team.
“Its good for her to learn the camaraderie, teamwork and pushing her peers to be the best as well as herself,” Martinez said from the stands Saturday.
Saturday marked the last opening day for Natalie Sanchez, a 12-year-old pitcher who drew applause from parents in every inning. Her mother, Cristina Sanchez, said the girl had been on the team for four years but this was her first year as the pitcher.
“We love coming here because we love the program and how they give all the kids a chance to come play when everything is paid for,” Cristina Sanchez said. “She’s putting in the hard work, and the coaches are giving her a lot of confidence.”