By Douglas W. Motley
Mountains Little League, on Saturday, March 19, hosted its annual season opening ceremony and carnival at Charles Hoffman Elementary School in Running Springs.
The carnival kicked off at 9 a.m. with carnival games, such as batting a ball toward a stack of paper cups, shooting projectiles at targets and an old-fashioned hopping-in-a-sack race.
But the highlight of the morning came at 10 a.m. when Andrew Clark, an 11-year-old brain cancer survivor, pitched the first ball of this pre-season event.
When asked when she first learned of Andrew’s cancer, his mother, Amber, told The Alpine Mountaineer, “While he had been playing baseball during a league game several years ago, he told me he had a pain in his head and wasn’t feeling well, so I took him to the emergency room and, after some testing, they found out he had a brain tumor behind his eye. But he fought back and now he’s doing better.”
According to a friend of the family, Andrew, who played second base and outfield on Coach Ken Busby’s team last season, underwent surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center the day after he had been diagnosed with the cancer. They were able to successfully remove the tumor and he remained in the hospital for several weeks before returning home to his family.
Selling carnival tickets at the entrance to the baseball field was Mountains Little League treasurer Jennifer Heichberger Hobbs. When asked how the proceeds from ticket sales would be used, she said, “This is great for the teams and it helps parents with the cost of team equipment, sweatshirts and the end of the season party.”
Following the Pledge of Allegiance and a powerful rendition of the national anthem, performed by Dana Merola, Andrew gave it his all and threw that ball as hard as he could toward Coach Ken “Buzz” Busby’s mitt, to the thunderous cheers and applause of over 100 spectators, consisting of Little League players, parents and coaches.
When asked how he felt about playing baseball again, Andrew, who played for the Little League Indians last year said, “I’m excited about it and I’m looking forward to playing ball again.”
After the first pitch, players from 30 local Little League teams in Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs continued carnival activities. Three-year-old Oliver Bare was found shooting a toy pistol at a stack of paper cups and, after numerous attempts, finally knocked the pile over. Meanwhile, 6-year-old Tommy Beckwith used one of his carnival tickets to bat balls at a cornhole-style screen.
Noting that there was no carnival last year due to COVID and that the teams didn’t get in a full season for the same reason, Mountains Little League President Eric Mills said the kids got to play some games later in the season. Commenting about the season opening ceremony, he said, “This carnival is a great way to get all the families, players and coaches together in one spot to have a lot of fun and celebrate together. Baseball is the greatest game in the world.”