Cleburne Parks and Recreation Director Max Robertson initiated the return of Cleburne softball Monday night by throwing the ceremonial first pitch, a moment caught on film for posterity.

“The photo is proof of my great form,” Robertson joked. “Mike [Utecht, supervisor of parks] is skillfully catching the deceptively gyrating ball.”

Adult softball league play returned to Don Moore Field after an absence of about five years.

The spring league includes 20 teams playing in three leagues, with each team scheduled to play 10 games.

Play begins with coed play at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and men’s league play on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Game nights include three to four games.

The Cleburne Rebels opened the season, handily defeating the Chesapeake Gas Hawgs 14-1.

But it’s not about the score, city officials said.

“It’s a noncompetitive, recreational league for fun,” said Kristi Dempsey, park’s department administrative assistant. “It’s more about encouraging everyone to have fun, get outside, exercise and use the park.”

Robertson agreed.

“We didn’t want to set this up as something highly competitive,” Robertson said. “It’s just for fun.”

In the spirit of fun, no playoffs or championship games are planned.

“No, the first place team members in each league will get T-shirts,” Dempsey said. “That will be determined by the most wins, or runs in case of a tie.”

Parks officials said they’re not sure why the former league ceased.

“The city didn’t run the old league,” Dempsey said. “Someone else did. It just dwindled down I think.”

Dempsey and Robertson both credit Utecht with reviving the program.

“I’ve been wanting to get it going again since I’ve been here,” Robertson said. “But we’ve been so busy with other things that we just never got around to it. Mike’s the one who really took the bull by the horns and made it happen. Everyone in the park’s department crew were really instrumental in getting it off the ground too.”

Utecht said local residents suggested the idea.

“Several people in town approached me, wanted to see if we could re-establish softball in town,” Utecht said. “A lot of them told me they liked playing in the old league and weren’t sure why it died off.

“I’ve played in several leagues in past years but never run one. So I called several sister cities to get some pointers.”

Catastrophe arose when a water line broke, flooding the outfield and threatening opening-night play. Thanks to a lot of sand and elbow grease expended during the day Monday, park crew members had the field ready to go well before the first pitch.

Although the park’s department officials reintroduced the league with minimal advertising, word of mouth spread fast and team rosters quickly filled.

“It went very good last night,” Utecht said. “I had a lot of people come up after the games telling me they like being able to play in Cleburne again and not have to drive somewhere else. A lot of them said they want to see it keep going, want us to do a summer and fall league, so we’ll see.”

Robertson also said he hopes to see league play expand into summer and fall.

“It’s a great way to have fun and get people out to the park,” Robertson said. “It’s also a nice time of year for families and residents to come out and watch a ball game.”

For information on upcoming league sign ups, call 817-645-0949.

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