It may be months since Westbrook’s shaggy-headed sons returned from the Little League World Series, but the aftereffects of their success are still reverberating on the ballfields of the community.

Not only have more youngsters than ever signed up this year for the various levels of Little League, but a large contingent of players, parents and coaches came out last Saturday morning to help clean and prepare the fields for this Saturday’s opening day.

“We’ve had more support than we’ve had in probably 25 years,” said Rick Knight, the coach who oversaw last year’s New England champs. “A lot of great things are being done – putting up the batting cage, putting up signs, cleaning the fields, getting rid of brush, cutting things down. We’ve even rented a lift to put up our flags and put up a net.”

Though it was a bit cool, the weather for the clean-up was much more agreeable than a year ago.

“Last year it was raining, so we only had a couple dozen people,” Bill Hazlewood said. “This year it looks like we’ve got a couple hundred. We’ve got a lot of interest because of the success of the team last year. It’s good for Westbrook Little League.”

Hazlewood is an assistant coach on one of the teams, and his 10-year-old son, Alec, has been involved in the league since playing Tee Ball. He’s seen the boy absorb concepts such as teamwork and tolerance.

“He wasn’t the strongest kid last year, but the bigger kids were fantastic with him – mentoring him, bringing his self-esteem level up,” Hazlewood said. “And I see it this year with the whole group of rookies. He’s turned around and is doing the same for them.”

According to Knight, 423 boys and girls have signed up for the program, including Tee Ball, instructional league, Minor League, Little League and softball. He noted that contributions are up as well.

“The notoriety from last year certainly doesn’t hurt,” he said.

The league’s opening ceremonies will take place Saturday starting at 9 a.m., and Gov. John Baldacci is scheduled to be on hand to throw out the first pitch. Thanks to the volunteers on hand last week, the facilities should be in good shape.

“I like helping to make the fields better,” said Tyler Eastman, a 10-year-old player who raked leaves and picked up trash at the clean-up. “If you play baseball you have to respect the field and do your part.”


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