By Alex Russell
This past Saturday, Mar. 26, saw the return of the Falls Church Kiwanis Little League (FCKLL) Opening Day parade. In attendance were F.C. Mayor David Tarter and Delegate Marcus Simon — both taking part in the ceremonial first pitch — as well as surprise guests the (Racing) Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Bag piper Austin Middleton led the procession, with the festivities culminating in a series of first pitches from local High School seniors — all of whom “graduated” from F.C. Little League.
The celebration itself marks the comeback of regularly scheduled, in-person baseball in the Little City. The Opening Day parade is typically an annual endeavor, but as with most things, Covid-19 forced Little League organizers to cancel the event in 2020 and replace the parade with an Opening Day video last year.
Little League President Kirsten Fatzinger and Communications & PR Lead Erika Toman explained how Covid “created numerous operational and logistical challenges,” but following their hiatus in spring of 2020, the League’s been “fully operational.”
Fatzinger and Toman underscored that “safety is always the League’s number one priority, with or without a pandemic.” But since pandemic-related conditions have been gradually improving in recent months, this season “players and spectators” will not be “required to wear masks or socially distance,” and “umpires are back in position calling balls and strikes behind the plate.”
The 2022 Spring Season will feature 48 teams, totaling almost 600 boys and girls between the ages of 4 — 13, playing games across 10 fields in the Falls Church area — this includes the Challengers, “an adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical or intellectual challenges.”
Speaking about its operational logistics, Fatzinger explained that the City’s Little League “is 100 percent volunteer, not-for-profit.” The volunteers “coach, coordinate events, and maintain fields each season. All coaches and volunteers are local and unpaid, and some stay with the League even after their players graduate from the program because of their love for the game and the community.” She added that “a Board of Directors oversees all activities. Everyone who comes out for Little League makes a team. There are no ‘cuts.’ Falls Church Little League is for everyone who lives or goes to school within the League’s boundary.”
Fatzinger touched upon how sponsors are a major source of revenue for the FCKLL, adding that “Little League International permits one fundraiser throughout the year” that relies on participation from the players themselves, and historically this has been the two-day-long Player Hit-A-Thon. (The Hit-A-Thon returns this year in May, with the Adult Hit-A-Thon and Home Run Derby scheduled for May 14 at Westgate Field at 7500 Magarity Rd, Falls Church.)
This year’s Opening Day parade exemplified the ties that the Kiwanis Little League has to its local community. In addition to the Washington Nationals, who are a “multi-year partner” with the FCKLL — the Nats provided team jerseys and hats and have donated prizes to kids who raise the most money or hit the farthest ball during a Hit-A-Thon — the League has numerous sponsors right here in the area, including the Falls Church News-Press. (This season, the Triple-A team, consisting mostly of players ages 9 — 11, is coached by David Izawa and is the official News-Press Little League team.)
The Falls Church Kiwanis Little League is the oldest Little League organization in the state, having been founded in 1948. Later, in the ‘50s, “the then-local Kiwanis Club became patrons of the League.” Even after the hardships brought on by the pandemic, the FCKLL is still going strong.
Looking ahead, Toman shared that “a working group is already planning a 75th anniversary celebration” set for 2023, and that “League leaders are looking for photos and stories from ‘the good old days.’” She adds that “anyone with vintage materials or stories to tell is invited” to email her directly at [email protected] and add to the nostalgic collection.
To find out more about F.C. Little League, located at 2400 Hurst St, Falls Church, VA, visit fckll.org or email [email protected]