Destin Little League, bursting at the seams, honors Coach Bill Shirah on opening day
For more than four decades, Bill Shirah has participated in his share of opening-day festivities for the Destin Little League. And on Saturday, not only was he the grand marshal for the parade but the league named the major league field after Shirah, complete with a monument and plaque.
“Who gets that … only the best,” said Frank Davis, who caught the ceremonial first pitch from Shirah.
“He’s been my mentor and friend my whole life,” Davis said.
Shirah, 74, started with Destin Little League in 1976.
“I remember when we had four teams and we had to have everybody who could walk playing,” Shirah said. “But oh my goodness, it’s come a long way."
On Saturday, more than 400 youths sporting their new uniforms paraded from the Destin Elementary School track down Kelly Street to Dalton Threadgill Little League Park.
“I remember when we just had the one field here,” Shirah said, pointing to the field that now bears his name.
The league now has a major league field, T-ball field and minor/softball field and 416 kids in the league.
“Dalton would be so proud of all this down here,” Shirah said.
“The amount of kids, it’s unreal,” Shirah said as players lined the infield.
Destin Little League boasts 37 teams this year, according to league president Jason Alley. They have seven T-ball teams, six coach pitch teams, six machine pitch baseball teams, three machine pitch softball teams, six minor baseball teams, two minor softball teams, one major softball team and six intermediate baseball teams.
“It wouldn’t take us five minutes to announce all the teams back in the day,” he said.
Shirah wore many hats over the years, from coach, administrator, umpire and field worker.
Shirah was known for his team Capt. Dave’s.
“We had a few years where we would just win a few, but then we got on that streak where we won eight in a row … then nobody liked us,” Shirah laughed.
But Saturday, everybody was a winner as the weather was perfect for opening festivities.
Katie Davies sang the National Anthem and Charlene Richardson opened with prayer. Quinn Alley led everyone in the league pledge.
Four teams from last year that won at districts were recognized and presented championship rings. The teams honored were the 8Us, 9Us, 11Us and 12Us.
“It takes a big commitment and a lot of work” to make it that far, said Coach Matt Dahlman.
Also on Saturday, coaches participated in a cabbage ball game, while Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House provided a fish fry with all proceeds going back to the league.