Decades on the diamond: La Jolla Youth Baseball celebrates its 70th season
After two years of cancellations and modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league returns with a record number of players.
“Our opening days are always special, kicking off another baseball season,” said La Jolla Youth Baseball President Scott Blumenthal. “But [this one] takes on certain importance.”
March 5 was opening day of LJYB’s 70th season, with players and families braving the wind and mist for a ceremony that included remarks by several speakers, food and treats and a visit from the San Diego Padres’ Pad Squad and Swinging Friar mascot.
The event also honored the 2022 class of “Decade on the Diamond” players — nine boys who have played two seasons in each of the five LJYB divisions: Shetland, Pony, Pinto, Mustang and Bronco, starting at age 5.
The nine players are Mitch Circuit, Luke Cripe, Clyde Kates, Caleb Keener, Evan Quijada, Evan Rogge, Emery Semmens, Renner Smith and Haiden Uhrig. Their photos will be displayed on posters at LJYB fields all season.
The Decade on the Diamond players are “role models for our next generation of ballplayers,” Blumenthal said. “Despite all the other sports and school assignments, they’ve really hung in there through this period of time.”
“It’s important to not only recognize them and what they’ve done for our league [but also] their family that kind of propelled them through this achievement,” Blumenthal added. “It’s a large commitment and one that we’re thrilled to recognize.”
Mitch, 13, a seventh-grader at Pacific Beach Middle School, said he has always enjoyed playing baseball with and against his friends. He said his decade with LJYB has helped him learn sportsmanship.
He said he loves the league’s coaches, who have “helped me improve a lot. They do make a difference.”
Mitch said he hopes to follow the trajectory of his father, Chris Circuit, who played in LJYB on the same fields and went on to play in college. “It would be cool to play in [Major League Baseball],” Mitch added.
Mitch’s mother, Stacy Circuit, said “a lot of these boys play travel baseball. But they still want to come play [recreational baseball] because it’s their community.”
Haiden, 14, an eighth-grader at Muirlands Middle School, said in a speech at the ceremony that his grandfather and great-uncle played in LJYB and told Haiden stories of the long friendships they made on the diamond.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have those same experiences,” Haiden said. “The boys I play with are my friends, they are my family, and they will be in my life always.”
Haiden said the league’s coaches “all taught me so much about how to love the game of baseball.”
Blumenthal himself played in the league as a child and is now the father of three boys in LJYB.
He said this season is important not only because it’s the 70th for the league but also because the previous two seasons were canceled or modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We lost the 2020 season in its entirety,” he said. “This will be the first full season [since then] hopefully without any obstacles.”
Blumenthal said the league has a record number of players this year at 525, up from last year’s 380.
Youth baseball provides rich experiences for its players both on and off the field, he said. “We just happen to be the shepherds that are in charge for this period of time, but La Jolla Youth Baseball was here long before us and … it’ll be here long after us as a stalwart [part of] this community.”
The league’s board of directors and volunteers “take great pride in … upholding the standard that was set before us, but doing more than that, improving the league and paying it forward and putting the next generation in a place where there’s less for them to worry about as a nonprofit,” Blumenthal said.
“Opening day for us is kind of the culmination of that. It’s everything that we get to do, all that we work up for all year. And it’s a great day of celebration for kids to get back out there.”
For more information, visit ljyb.org. ◆
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