Flags carried with precision by the military-like marching Johnston Police Color Guard were somewhat out-stretched Saturday morning, courtesy of a slight breeze that swept across sun-covered and famed Daniel Mazzulla Field.
Sometime around 9:15 or so, Ray Arruda’s radio broadcaster-like voice echoed through Johnston War Memorial Park welcoming people of all ages to what would be another colorful opening for the Johnston Girls Softball League.
Soon thereafter, people were standing in silence, listening to Whitney’s Houston’s beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner that set the stage for an impressive ceremony that included Mayor Joseph Polisena deferring from throwing out the first pitch and that Saturday went to the league’s special guest, Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee who threw a perfect strike to Hannah Calabro.
What transpired for the next half-hour were introductions of dignitaries and invited guests and most importantly the dozens of little girls who earlier paraded from Johnston High School to Mazzulla Field for Saturday’s official opening of the Johnston Little League Girls Softball program that included a special visit from the Pawtucket Red Sox mascots who also marched in the parade.
In the center of it all was Arruda, who owns and operates The Music Box in Johnston and coaches in the league and whose announcing talents made the lively ceremony much more special.
Meanwhile, Lisa Calabro, the JGSL’s president who later received a thunderous round of cheers for her untiring efforts to make sure girls have the same opportunity as the boys to play in a well-organized program where it’s not win at all costs.
“Lisa works hard and is totally dedicated to this program,” Arruda would later say while watching Calabro hand official JGSL Panthers blankets to special guests like McKee, Polisena, Parks and Recreation Director Dan Mazzulla, just to name a few people the long-serving president wanted to thank for their continuous support of a valuable Johnston youth sports program.
The speaking program was also impressive and included Mike Montecalvo, the popular WPRI-TV Channel 12 new anchor, Polisena, McKee, Mazzulla and Citizens Bank Executive Vice President Mike Knipper.
Also among the day’s honorees were members of the JGSL’s 2017 Major District All-Star Champions such as Gianna Robinson, Milana Melvin, Jazz Ascenzio, Victoria Winsor, Alyssa Andrade, and Hannah Calabro, who has noted caught McKee’s fist pitch.
In keeping with tradition, the JGSL’s Opening Day included introductions of all teams in the nationally-sanctioned Little League Girls Softball Program that played a five different divisions and played a round robin of games beginning with the 6-U kids doing the honors sometime around 10:15 or so.
Opening Day 2018 also included the traditional team photographs as well as a special raffle collection that Calabro announced will benefit the Johnston Memorial Cancer Events (JMCE) that raises money to help children who are battling cancer at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
Many of the town’s political leaders, including Councilmen Robert Russo, Robert Civetti and Richard DelFino III were on hand was were School Committee members Robert LaFazia, Joseph Rotella and Lauren Garzone and State Senator Frank Lombardo showed up to show support for the town’s important youth sports program.
The ceremony, as it always is, was also made special by the Johnston Police Color Guard led by Major Thomas Dolan, Lt. Steven Guilmette, Det. Anthony Sasso and Det. Chris DeCesare.