A Local Baseball Tradition Reflects on Importance of Memorial Day

first_imgBy Lesley GrahamHonor and tradition run deep within the Ocean City Youth Athletic Association. The league’s annual Memorial Day baseball game reflects upon the sacrifice of those who died while serving our country and the importance of remembering those sacrifices. Greg Donahue, former president of the OCYAA, who has been involved with the league since 1972, tries every year to remind the young players of the significance of Memorial Day. There has always been a game on Memorial Day, and it is a tradition Donahue values. “This is real. There are people out there that are serving today… and these kids are playing baseball because people like that are defending their freedoms. I give the same speech every year so that the kids understand the magnitude of Memorial Day,” Donahue said. The teams gather with all those honored before the start of the game.The magnitude of Memorial Day could be seen by all the players, coaches and fans alike with World War II veteran Joe Caserta, an Ocean City resident who was honored by the OCYAA for his service to his country. At 19, Caserta joined the Army and was assigned to E Company, 3rd Armored Division. He fought with his division through Normandy, the Battle of Mons and the Battle of the Bulge. As a Sherman Tank Commander, and through his sacrifice and service, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.  Caserta, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, was then thanked by the members of both teams who stood in awe of his presence. The OCYAA also held ceremonial first pitches for two other honorees on the morning, city employee Mike Lenhardt and also Ocean City PBA Local 61. Lenhardt, a member of the Public Works department, is retiring after years of service. He was credited with taking meticulous care of the fields for the OCYAA, always making sure they are game ready.Ocean City Public Works employee Mike Lenhardt, center, is honored with a plaque for keeping the fields of the OCYAA in tip-top shape.The pride Lenhardt shows in his work and the care in which the fields are maintained is a testament to the passion he has for his job, officials said. Donahue noted that when Lenhardt took over, he never missed a beat and he does a wonderful job every single game. Finally, PBA Local 61 was also honored before the morning’s games for the police union’s recent donation of a new scoreboard on the major league field. PBA President TJ Mullineaux, said the union was looking to make a substantial donation and couldn’t think of a more deserving cause. “It is a great thing for the community, league and union to get involved with,” Mullineaux said. Ocean City Officer Chris Vivarelli throws out the first pitch for the PBA during the new scoreboard dedication.Officer Chris Vivarelli, a former baseball player with the OCYAA, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in recognition for the PBA. Donahue noted, “The PBA has always supported us in one way, shape or form and they do a lot of wonderful things for our organization, other organizations and this city.” Baseball has always been an integral part of the fabric of American life and it’s no different here in Ocean City. The game has a way of teaching young players lessons that stretch far beyond the field of play.And on Memorial Day, thanks to great service, sacrifice and dedication, the OCYAA took time to honor individuals and organizations who embody those traits.The new scoreboard donated by the Ocean City PBA Local 61. Ocean City World War II veteran Joseph Caserta, who died last week, was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in May of 2019.last_img read more

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