For more than a decade, Marianne Syrett volunteered at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Little League ball fields, working concession stands and cheering on the teams.
Even when the 52-year-old Bay Shore woman was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago and later with leukemia, she remained active with the league.
Syrett lost her battle with cancer Feb. 20, but her family kept her memory alive during the league’s opening season ceremony on Saturday.
Her 11-year-old son, John Jr., tossed out the first pitch of the season to his father during the ceremony in his mother’s memory.
“She came to every game,” said his father John Syrett, 54. “She was here for every opening, every festival, worked at concession stands. She did whatever she could to be a part of this, to be near her kids.”
About 600 little leaguers — ages 5 to 16 — marched with their families six blocks in a parade led by the local fire department kicking off opening day. Once they reached the field, they broke up into teams and sat together in the outfield.
During the ceremony, the moment of silence was emotional for him, but “it was great to have the little league honor a family like ours,” said the elder Syrett.
After being involved in the league for years, he mentioned how it gives children the chance to interact with others their own age and learn the skills necessary to become a good sportsman.
“Little League is great about teaching that it’s not about winning, it’s not about losing, it’s about having fun and learning how to play the game the right way,” Syrett said.
Chris Pellman, vice president of the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Little League — which began in 1955 — agreed with him that the league is more about children having fun, than winning.
“We don’t really care about that as long as next year we know these kids are coming back to play,” Pellman said.
After the ceremony, the children began their first games of the season, which runs from Saturday through the beginning of August, Pellman said.
Taylor Barbour, 12, of Bay Shore, was excited for her first game of the season. Even though this is her last season in the league, she also plays on Bay Shore Middle School’s junior varsity softball team and aspires to be a professional softball pitcher.
“I’ve been pitching since I was so little and I come up to be this pitcher that I never knew I could be,” Barbour said. “Little league is where it all begins, it’s your first step of becoming a greater person and more dedicated person to play baseball or softball.”
Just before walking off the field to head to another to coach his team’s first game, Pellman recalls how much fun last year was and how exciting he expects this season to be.
“It’s the greatest day of the year,” Pellman said. “They have so much fun. It’s the one day of the year we get everybody down here at one time on the fields, together.”