15 opening dayOne of Hope Mills’ favorite traditions will be getting a new location this Saturday. Opening Day Ceremony for the town’s youth baseball and softball teams will move from Brower Park to J.P. Riddle Stadium, home of the Fayetteville SwampDogs.

Bruce Armstrong, who heads the Hope Mills Youth Association, said it’s been about 20 years since the town last held opening day at Riddle Stadium.

“We were approached by the SwampDogs leadership and offered the opportunity to do it,’’ he said.

“I know the SwampDogs staff is being generous in their offer to help make the event work. They’re doing a lot to make it a special morning for the players, coaches and their families.’’

While there was certainly a hometown feel to the annual ceremony at cozy Brower Park, Hope Mills town commissioner Jerry Legge said Riddle Stadium offers a lot of obvious advantages over the recreation field.

“It’s the opportunity to have the kids in a bigger facility,’’ Legge said. “It gives the kids the opportunity to have the atmosphere and memory of being in a professional ball stadium.’’

For fans and friends of the various teams, it also means a more spacious parking lot.

As in previous years, each team along with its coaches and sponsors, will be introduced to the crowd. Legge said the town has roughly 50 teams of various ages competing in Dixie Youth Baseball or Dixie Softball.

When the Opening Day Ceremony ends, those teams that don’t have to play immediately afterward will be treated to a tour of the stadium.

Also invited to take part in the ceremony are members of some older teams from the town that will begin their seasons later.

When the Opening Day Ceremony ends, those teams that don’t have to play immediately afterward will be treated to a tour of the stadium.

Games will be played at various locations in Hope Mills the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.

Regardless of where Opening Day is held, Armstrong said it’s a special time.

“It’s the one time you have 500 children, a couple of hundred coaches and a thousand parents and grandparents at one place and one time celebrating youth sports,’’ he said. “Seeing 500 kids on a baseball field is a beautiful sight.’’

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