MADISON, NJ — Gray skies and a few rain showers Saturday were no match for Madison’s Little League, which celebrated its 65th anniversary with a midday parade despite the rain.
Crowds of children young and old, boys and girls, gathered outside the Hartley Dodge Memorial Building at noon, donning their uniforms with umbrellas at the ready. Nearly 1,000 people marched down Kings Road to Green Village Road and east on Main Street to the parade’s end at Dodge Field, where the annual opening day ceremony was held.
Mayor Conley and Councilman Bob Landrigan attended the Dodge Field ceremony, and the mayor issued a proclamation honoring Madison Little League for its decades of work with the town’s youth.
“Madison Little League advocates positive and safe sports and encourages boys and girls to embrace the ideals of great sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty, courage and respect for authority,” Conley said, reading the proclamation.
The Madison Little League program was established in 1952, but the parade was not always part of opening day. Officials were unsure when the parades first began, but Mayor Conley said he “remembered watching home movies of the parade in the 1960s.”
The annual parade “promotes the team,” Waer said. “It’s great for a town like this. It gets everybody together. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a big family. I refer to it as my Madison Little League family.”
More than 600 youth ages 5-16 participate in the borough’s program, which has six different divisions across 47 teams. The program relies completely on local volunteers to staff each of its positions. Many of these volunteers were recognized on Saturday and were given a certificate that commended their work for the league.
Waer thanked all the volunteers and said they “are the reason that this program is still drawing this many kids” when other towns are struggling to attract players.
“We’re not about winning; we’re not cutthroat,” he said. “We’re about teaching these kids, in my opinion, the greatest game there is: baseball.”
Also celebrating a special anniversary is the Madison Softball League, which begins its 45th season this year, according to Waer. The program became its own entity about 10 years ago, Coach Dawn Neville said, and now has more than 300 players.
At the close of Saturday’s ceremony, Charlie Brodbeck of Longview Ave., who this year will play Tee-ball for Madison for the first time ever, took the mound with his father, Kevin, to throw the first pitch of the season.
Local businesses also took part in the day’s events. McCools Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt offered a free scoop of ice cream to every player that visited the store in uniform, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.