THE SCENE could have been the subject of a Normal Rockwell painting.
Kids in their crisp new Little League uniforms processing through town, their eyes squinting and faces scrunched up against the bright spring sunshine. The smell of fresh cut grass. Local dignitaries assembled at the dais — really just a pair of conjoined plastic folding tables. Old Glory snapping in the breeze in center field. A man in his Roman collar at the mic thanking Almighty God for the glorious day and praying for His continued graces. A local young woman singing the National Anthem as everyone stood for the flag, caps removed and covering their hearts.
It was opening day for Laconia Little League. For many in attendance this was the first good day in over a year. During this one weirdly summerlike April morning all thoughts of pandemics and partisanship were light years away.
Fr. Marc Drouin, the man in the Roman collar, kicked things off by thanking the One responsible for our health, our hope, and the opportunity to gather together as a community.
Gov. Chris Sununu took center stage to energize the crowd with his message of unyielding optimism.
“This is a great day for a variety of reasons. It’s been a hard year for everyone, especially these kids and everything that’s been going on with school and isolation,” he said. “But when you look at what we’ve done here, what you all are doing out here in the communities, this is why they are saying New Hampshire has the strongest economy in the country, New Hampshire is the safest state in the country, and that is why states from all over the northeast are looking at Laconia today and saying, no joke, ‘How are they doing that? They are back to normal!’”
I swear sometimes I think he could convince even Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to quit his job and move up here.
Mayor Andrew Hosmer, no slouch in the pep talk department himself, told the crowd, “We’ve been on a long road, but nothing says ‘America’ like coming to a baseball field on opening day and seeing the excitement in people’s faces,” he said. “Baseball leagues and baseball seasons are memory makers.”
Gen. Don Bolduc, retired brigadier general and Laconia native, urged us to value what we have and reminded us what it takes to keep it.
“Fr. Marc brought God to us today,” he said. “You all brought family here to us today. Together we brought community. That is the strength of our nation.”
Bolduc then unveiled the Jonathan Farmer Scholarship, a collaboration between Laconia Little League and the Lakes Region Scholarship Foundation. It is named in honor of a Laconia native and former Little League star who made the ultimate sacrifice in Syria in 2019. It will help future Laconia graduates pay for college.
“Jonathan Farmer represented the very best the City of Laconia has to offer,” League President Joe Dee said.
Oh, the kids played baseball too.
I wish I could report that when young Michael Hynes hit the ball during his second at bat it soared to the heavens and we briefly lost it in the sun’s glare before it landed on the far side of the left field fence. Instead, he hit a soft line drive directly into the glove of the opposing team’s shortstop who, no doubt shaking off more than a year’s worth of rust, promptly dropped it, allowing Michael to reach first base in his first game.
“The one constant through all the years has been baseball,” Terrance Mann said in Field of Dreams. “America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”
Just an overly sentimental line from a movie? Yeah, maybe. But we all felt it that Saturday morning.
Michael’s team defeated their worthy competitors in a close 5-4 game. It was the perfect ending to one perfect day in one small town in New Hampshire.