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North Fort Myers Babe Ruth opens new season
February 15, 2017

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A helicopter touched down in centerfield, fireworks went off behind the outfield fences, and teams from all over Lee County came to help North Fort Myers Babe Ruth celebrate the start of its season Saturday at the North Fort Myers Community Park.

And the good news is that more players are on the field, they have improved tremendously, and they will be able to test their abilities against teams from all over the region.

New league president Jason Estes said there is much to be hopeful about.

There are about 155 players, an increase of more than 20 players from last year. Each level will have three teams apiece, with games against teams in other leagues from Punta Gorda, Cape Coral and Alva.

"We're really focusing on fundamentals. True baseball, sticking to the rules from the bottom up beginning with tee ball," Estes said. "Last year we didn't get any interleague games together. That was something we wanted to focus on this year."

Opening ceremonies included the Lee County Sheriff's Office, the North Fort Myers Fire Department and a helicopter that landed in centerfield and fireworks.

"It really got the kids amped up and ready to play their first games," Estes said. "This year we got a lot of good feedback on the excitement."

Unlike most years, where the kids held their parade and went home, they went onto the field and played a preseason doubleheader. A team from Sanibel visited to play against the major league Reds.

Jason Whitty, an assistant coach for the Pirates, said opening day went well, with more organization than last year. Now, he's ready for his kids to play some ball.

"We look good. We're excited to play. We've been practicing twice a week for the past month," Whitty said. "They were antsy to get started."

Randy Sturrup, assistant coach for the Rangers, said it's been a long time coming, but Opening Day has arrived not soon enough.

"We're all excited to be here. It's going to be a long day, but also a fun day," Sturrup said. "My son gets real antsy. Practice can take a toll sometimes, but when we come here, this is what we come for."

His son, Payton, thought it was pretty good the season had started with such a bang, literally. Now, he could take his tools behind the plate.

"I play catcher. It's my favorite position," Payton said. "I get to get people out when they hit the ball backwards in the air. I like the games, but I also like practice because I can hit the ball. That's my favorite."

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