Little League celebrates Opening Day

Little League celebrates Opening Day

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- When you play Little League baseball, Opening Day comes a little earlier than it does for the Major Leaguers, so Tuesday was National Opening Day for the 70th Little League season, with a ceremony at La Cienega Park attended by baseball greats Dave Winfield and Fred Lynn and television legend Larry King.

"I'm very proud to have been asked to take part today," said Dodgers season-ticket holder King, whose sons Chance and Cannon play in the Beverly Hills Little League. "SUBWAY is sponsoring this event, and these kids are wonderful, who are playing today with a team from Culver City playing Beverly Hills. It's a beautiful day; it's a baseball day. This is what baseball is all about. The grass is green, the dirt is brown, the chalk lines are white and the sky is clear."

Hall of Famer Winfield and former American League MVP and Rookie of the Year Lynn served as celebrity coaches in the Opening Day game, giving the Little Leaguers a chance to interact with two of baseball's all-time greats.

"Look at this," said Winfield, whose career took him to San Diego, New York, Anaheim, Toronto and his home state of Minnesota. "You have all these parents and kids and their first introduction to baseball at this level. I appreciate SUBWAY and all the work they're doing to promote Little League baseball, especially for this special anniversary season. What else can you say? People can be stuck in an office, all buttoned down and all, but we're out here playing baseball with these kids, and that's a great thing."

"To be here with Dave is great," said Lynn. "It would be nice to be on the same team just once. For 17 years I always played against him. It's also great to see Larry King here. He would visit us frequently when I played for Baltimore. It's also great to see all the kids and maybe do a little coaching while I'm here."

SUBWAY Restaurants announced Monday the first annual "Baseball Design Across America" tour, commencing with Tuesday's Opening Day event. The tour will feature baseballs designed and autographed by celebrities that will be auctioned off to the public, with the total proceeds benefiting the Little League.

The tour will make stops in seven United States cities, including the final stop in Williamsport, Pa., at the Little League World Series. Beginning in Los Angeles, the tour will be accompanied by baseball legends who will be serving as official program spokespeople, including Lynn (Boston, June 9), two-time World Series champion George Foster (Indianapolis, June 26) and World Series MVP Bucky Dent (New York City, Aug. 6). The tour also will make stops in Philadelphia and St. Louis during All-Star festivities in July.

"The tour should be great," said Winfield. "They have these baseballs that Fred, Larry and I signed and a lot of other people will sign during the course of the year, and the auction they have for them will continue to raise money for youth baseball around the country."

Little League baseball's 70th anniversary got the two former All-Stars talking about how great the game is.

"How many fathers and sons got together on a Saturday afternoon, tossed the ball around and thought they were Stan Musial, Willie Mays or whomever?" said Lynn. "This is a great way for fathers and sons, and I guess now mothers and daughters, too, to get together as a team [and] play for something besides yourself. There's so many great memories provided by playing Little League baseball, and it's a great family experience."

"Seventy years ago this started in a small town in Williamsport, Pennsylvania," said Winfield. "Now there's at least three million kids playing at this entry level of baseball around the world. They play in Saudi Arabia and South Africa; they play everywhere around the world, and that's ... great for every community that has it."

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.