Play ball!

Apr. 24—MOSES LAKE — Forget the flowers, the showers and the red, red robin. The true sign of spring in Moses Lake is when the youth baseball and softball season kicks into gear with the annual Moses Lake Youth Parade.

That event took place Saturday, with hordes of young players dressed in their uniforms and waving from the backs of pickups as their teams made the loop in downtown Moses Lake.

The parade, and the leagues, had unprecedented participation, according to organizers.

"Between the two leagues, Moses Lake Youth Baseball and Columbia Basin Girls Softball, there's over 800 players this year, which is a record for us," said Justin Morigeau, president of the Moses Lake Youth Baseball Association.

The MLYBA has 46 teams, Morigeau said, and the CBGSA has 31.

"We saw an increase of 12% in our participation this year, said CBGSA President Brad Thacker. "And we have two teams from Quincy this year, which we haven't had (before)."

The CBGSA also includes teams from Moses Lake, Ephrata and Royal City, Thacker added.

The parade gathered at the Surf 'n Slide Water Park on Saturday morning, with players and coaches decorating vehicles in team colors. At precisely 10 a.m., the parade began to roll down Fourth Avenue to the roundabout at Balsam, then a block north along Third Avenue, looping around on Ivy Avenue and finishing up back at McCosh Park. The traditional ceremonies then took place at Centennial Amphitheater. Morigeau and Thacker recognized the team sponsors, asking all the owners and employees to stand and be applauded, then introducing the parade's grand marshal Ben Thornton.

Thornton is a perennial volunteer at sporting events, Morigeau told the Columbia Basin Herald.

"He does a lot of volunteering and support for almost all of the high school teams," Morigeau said. "He's an awesome volunteer. He's the first one to the field and the last one to leave."

Morigeau then called out two players who were up against some difficult odds this year, one who is battling cancer and another who suffered an injury that means he'll have to cheer on his team from the dugout.

The ceremonies concluded with each team introduced on stage in turn, to thunderous cheers from family and friends.

This year's opening ceremony was a little different from years past, when the parade would drive out Broadway Avenue to the Larson Playfield. Morigeau said the two associations hope to bring it back to Larson next year, with a few additions, assuming there are enough volunteers and it can be coordinated with the city.

"We want to ... run a skills competition, where the kids will be able to do home run derbies or fastest base pad running or best outfield catch, best infield throws, how fast they can pitch," he said. "So we're going to put that on the planning docket for next year."

Joel Martin may be reached via email at