In the chilly morning hours of Saturday, March 18, hundreds of parents, children and supporters gathered in Crozet Park for the opening ceremony for the Peachtree Baseball League of Albemarle’s spring season. There to throw the opening pitch was Gene Sandridge, a long-time league fixture and umpire, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
“Gene has been with us for 30 years and has been crucial to the development of our organization, and served as such an asset to our children,” said PBLA president Cheryl Madison, who herself has been with the league for 23 years. “We already presented him with a plaque honoring his service a few months ago, and are proud that he can be here to open our season.”
As his pitch sailed through the strike zone into the mitt of 12-year-old Peachtree veteran catcher Eli Scarbrough, the crowd went wild with applause.
This year marks the first that Peachtree has offered softball. “We offered softball for the first time in the fall of 2016,” said Madison. “While we had just a few teams in the fall and around 33 players, we’ve doubled our numbers since then and, this spring, have five teams—two 8-youth and three 10-youth teams, with about 12 players each.”
The expansion was the result of work put in by committed parents, Madison said. “We’d been fighting for and wanting this to happen for years, but there was no one that had the drive and was willing to put in the hours it took to make it happen,” she said. “But this year, the parents just came together, got organized, and were willing to put in that effort to make softball a reality. The girls really, really wanted to play and they reached out to their friends and drummed up a lot of support—there was just a great turnout.”
In addition to the softballers, Peachtree has 27 boys’ teams ranging from T-ball—that’s four and five-year-olds—on up to the Babe Ruth League players, who are aged 13–16; in all, 324 boys.
“We want to thank our sponsors, parents and volunteers—without you none of this would be possible,” Madison told the opening day audience. “Because of you, these kids get a chance to be on the field playing ball, having a great time, enjoying and learning the game of baseball and softball with new and old friends alike.”