MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
The arrival of spring is heralded by the return of insects, budding plants and migratory birds. But for some, the most anticipated signs of spring are a freshly-groomed infield and the feel of a well-worn leather glove.
This time of year, children are fielding grounders and swinging away in little league practices and games across the nation. The Havelock Little League is no exception, but unlike most others, about one in three sluggers is a military child. Every year in April, the nation observes the Month of the Military Child to honor the sons and daughters of American service members and their unique contributions and sacrifices.
Abel Sandoval, the president of the Havelock Little League, says he knows the league provides an important branch of a growing support system for the children of service members.
“Most of the league’s board members have served in the military at one time or another,” said Sandoval. “We understand the difficulties these children are going through, and we do everything we can within Little League International’s rules to help these kids out.”
Sandoval, a retired Marine Corps staff sergeant, said a majority of the league managers and coaches go out of their way to help the military children get to practices and games when a parent is deployed or work demands preclude their attendance. He added that the league’s volunteers include many active duty Marines filling coaching positions, adding another person the children can rely on.
“When these military kids come here and play they make friends and great bonds grow,” said Sandoval. “If their parents get orders somewhere and they move away, but return to Havelock five or six years later, those bonds are still there. It makes the military life a lot easier.”
Both military and local parents enjoy watching their children play ball and feel it’s a great way to get the children’s minds off real world troubles such as deployments.
“This league and its coaches are great assets,” said Maria E. Ketchum, whose husband is deployed with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion out of Camp Lejeune. “It helps the kids (integrate) with the community and gain new friends outside of the military.”
Ketchum, whose son plays second base for Desmones Eye Care, said she feels the league gives her child a positive outlet to help cope with his father’s deployment.
“This gives him a way to keep active and deal with his dad being gone,” said Ketchum. “It also gives him something to talk about with his dad while on Skype. His dad is very proud of him.”
The season opener between Desmones Eye Care and Dairy Queen took place Monday at the Havelock Recreation Center. Desmones Eye Care won 10-2.