RANCHO SANTA FE — This year the opening day of the Rancho Santa Fe Little League will be bigger and better, said its president Dave Thatcher. There will be an Opening Day Parade, with players in their uniforms, passing through the village. Mark Loretta, a retired local big leaguer will be the guest speaker. In addition, some members of the Chula Vista team that won the 2009 Little League World Series will be on hand. Rounding out the day will be a carnival for the community to enjoy.
“It’s sort of like old town America. Last year we got more people on opening day than in the last 10 to 15 years,” Thatcher said. “This year it is on Sunday (March 6), so there will be less conflict. We’re trying to get the community out here. I want to make this a community event.”
One of the things that makes the Rancho Santa Fe Little League so unique is the fact there are a lot of ex-major league players living in the area who are willing to help.
How many Little Leaguers are lucky enough to have their skills clinics taught by the likes of baseball greats Trevor Hoffman, former Padre and future Hall of Famer, and the legendary Kirk McCaskill who has played for the White Sox and the Angels?
“There are others, but the whole idea is to help the kids develop their skills,” he said. “Baseball is a chess game compared to other sports. It takes a lot of mental ability and also a good amount of physical skill. Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports.”
And baseball is not the only sport available to area youths.
“The fact is that baseball is in competition with a lot of other sports like soccer and lacrosse, which are turning into year-round sports,” he said. “We need to keep getting kids’ attention and keep it and make it fun for them.”
The Rancho Santa Fe Little League, going into its 57th season, is made up of 300 to 350 players between the ages of 5 and 15. It is an all-volunteer organization.
“I’m a big believer in the benefits of Little League,” McCaskill said. “Learning life lessons, success and failure, how to work as a team and learning to try your best all of the time. Everything corny about Little League, I actually believe,” he said.
Thatcher said this will be his last year as president.
Last year he and the board instituted some changes and he wanted to stay on for one more year to make sure the vision from last year was carried out.
“We did a different opening. We had skills clinics. We wanted to make it fun for kids and to be something they remember for the rest of their lives,” he said. “It goes back to having fun. A lot of fun to a kid may be getting a hit and not being embarrassed in front of their buddies.”
The board of directors has also planned a fundraising Celebrity Poker Tournament, which is almost sold out and scheduled for Jan. 29. For a $500 donation, a player buys into the game and chips. First prize is a Rolex watch, second is a Mexican vacation and third is flying time in a private jet. Baseball great Bruce Bochy is expected to play in the tourney, as well as other celebrity athletes, Thatcher said.
“It will raise a substantial amount that will be put back into the field and players,” Thatcher said.
To learn more about the Rancho Santa Fe Little League, contact Thatcher at [email protected] or call him at (858) 525-5899.