Murrieta Valley softball girls swarmed California Oaks Sports Park on Saturday to celebrate Opening Day of the Murrieta Valley Girls Softball Association (MVGSA) spring season.
Bounce houses, vendors selling goods and foods, a rock wall and other family friendly activities littered the grounds, drawing area residents to the celebration.
The opening day ceremonies began at about noon as the more than 40 teams of girls ranging in age from 5 to 19 marched onto the field as friends and family cheered.
Teams with names such as Code Red, Insanity, Bat Girlz and Sabotage created a half-circle on the field as Lake Elsinore Storm mascot Thunder danced in and out of the line of players.
The ceremony opened with 10-year-old Anglina Velardes, a member of the Maniacs team, singing the National Anthem.
“I’ve been playing for six years,” Velardes said.
She volunteered to sing this year’s anthem.
Next, MVGSA’s board members were introduced and thanked for their many hours of volunteer time.
Board president Ken Powell took over announcements to give a special thanks to longtime coach, Jim Henderson, or “Coach Jimbo,” who died in January.
“We lost Coach Jimbo in January,” Powell said. “He coached many of the girls who are here today.”
Henderson began coaching in Escondido in 1982, later moving to Temecula.
In 2004 he began coaching in Murrieta when his granddaughter Breann Venters started playing softball. He would go on to coach for four years, also pioneering a pitching clinic for three years.
In a special ceremony, Henderson’s daughter Ann Venters was presented the banner from her father’s last softball team, Prime Time.
Then, all girls who had been coached by Henderson gathered for a photo with his daughter.
Henderson’s granddaughter Breann still plays with MVGSA but couldn’t be at the ceremony because she had a softball game with Murrieta Valley High School.
“She really wanted to be here,” said Ann Venters of her daughter. “But we know her grandpa would have wanted her to be out there playing.”
Jennifer Dean is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.