By Stacy Case
It seems that just about everyone in this tightly-knit community of Coral Springs and Parkland, and probably other nearby cities, was impacted in some manner by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this past Valentine’s Day.
Innumerable groups, agencies, schools and businesses have memorialized the 17 tragic deaths that resulted in that shooting attack at the school in many respectful manners. Two local recreational baseball leagues followed suit.
With sports, it tends to be a bit different because of the casual, fun atmosphere that is often felt when at an athletic venue. But this time at the ballpark, there was just a flow of emotions that took over the common hand-clapping and cheering from the crowd to initiate another season of play.
Both North Springs and Parkland Little League offered their very own versions of honoring those lost, as both programs hosted their Opening Night/Day festivities last month.
For North Springs, it was a direct impact. Joaquin ‘Guac’ Oliver, who lost his life at school that day, had spent many of his younger years playing at North Springs. Now in his honor, North Community Park’s field 4 is now renamed after him. His family was at the Opening Night and received the honors on behalf of him. The league also paid tribute to the other 16 Douglas deaths with a moment of silence and the releasing of angel-winged balloons.
Jason Rosoff, who is in his second year as North Springs’ President, offered his sympathies to the league and to the Oliver family.
“Words cannot express how much it meant to our league to have the Oliver family as part of our Opening Night,” said Jason. “Further, the fact that they gave us their blessing in dedicating and renaming our field 4 to “Guac” meant the world to us. Joaquin will always be part of North Springs Nation and will always be remembered at our fields. It gives me great pride to see our community come together to do something like this.“
And in neighboring Parkland, a special tribute was paid to the 17 victims just before heading into play.
Another victim, Gina Montalto, was honored by her brother Anthony as he threw out the ceremonial opening pitch for Parkland Little League, which was accompanied by a moment of silence for all of the others who perished.
“We had banners all around our park and the players have the MSD logo on their uniforms too,” says Rob Travinski, who is in his first year as Parkland Little League’s president. “We had the players, their families and coaches along with city officials take part in our opening ceremonies too. It was so nice to see how many people attended.”
Travinski and PLL have more than 400 players this season, which includes their T-ball division, while NSLL has its traditional baseball program at about 350. Both leagues began play last month and will continue through Memorial Day, followed by All-Star tournaments.
And after recognizing those lost on Feb. 14, both leagues turned the page and wanted to get back into the swing of things by doing something that is comfortable and familiar for many area youths…..baseball!
“I am very much looking forward to another great season at North Springs; our community has been through the unthinkable over the past few weeks,” adds Jason. “While we will never forget those affected, I know it is best that the kids have some normalcy in their lives; being out on the fields, playing the game they love.”