By Kaylee LaRocque
NAS Jax Public Affairs Officer
The Navy Ortega Lakeshore (NOL) Little League season kicked off Feb. 24 with an opening ceremony at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville ballfields.
Hundreds of players, coaches, families and friends came out to celebrate the 58th season of baseball aboard the station. NOL President Patrick Barnett welcomed the crowd, asking them to stand as the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Honor Support Team presented the colors during the playing of the national anthem.
Barnett proudly talked about all the new renovations made to the area by volunteers, base personnel and sponsors.
"We had quite a bit of damage during Hurricane Irma, but we've replaced concrete, built a new courtyard, removed trees and debris, put in a new dugout on the minor's field, we seeded the grass so it's nice and green, a new scoreboard," he said. "And we've renovated the bathrooms."
"You're going to see upgrades each year," he added. "We're going to continue to give back to the families, community and this park. My goal is to not only make this the best park in District 11, but the best park in Jacksonville."
Barnett also recognized board members and the coaches who introduced their players. Each year, one player is presented the Shotty Drew award for outstanding sportsmanship. Drew volunteered as a coach, board member, president and chief umpire at the park for four decades. This year's winner was Tristan Pruitt.
NAS Jax Executive Officer Capt. Michael Connor also welcomed the crowd before throwing out the first pitch.
"What a beautiful day to celebrate another season here at NAS Jax and to recognize the unique relationship between the base and NOL. For the past several weeks, I've had the privilege of watching these grounds be transformed into the great ballpark we have today. Thanks to all the volunteers who have helped out," he said.
"Community involvement is very important to the U.S. Navy and NAS Jax," Connor continued.
"The partnership we have with NOL is one of the oldest and most important partnerships we have. Since 1960, NAS Jax has supported this league and the players. We are committed to ensure this partnership continues into the future. To all the coaches and players, have a great season, work hard, play hard and most importantly, have fun."