In February, they got together to ring in the new season. Saturday, they kissed it goodbye.
North Fort Myers Babe Ruth Baseball held its closing ceremony Saturday with players, parents and coaches gathering at the community park to celebrate another great season, its second under the Ruth/Ripken banner.
Players got their participation trophies, with the league winners being specially acknowledged along with everyone else who helped make the season a success, including those working behind the scenes.
On the field, the play was as competitive as ever and even after Saturday's ceremony, in reality the season has only just begun.
"It was a wonderful season. The winners were only a game or two better than the second-place team, so it was a competitive season for all divisions," said president Bill Lemmerman.
The Brewers won the majors, which play under "50/70" rules, with the mound and bases that many feet apart, respectively, with the minors coming down to make-up dates to determine its winner between the Orioles and Rays. The Cardinals took the top spot in the Grapefruit.
Lemmerman also said they played interleague games with Punta Gorda, Cape Coral and Naples, doing a good job of holding its own.
"All the leagues are competitive with each other and they were all good games," Lemmerman said.
District playoffs are expected to take place the week of June 20 in Cape Coral, with the winners going to the state tournament in Jupiter. Even better, during the July 4 holiday, the league will play host to a state tournament for the small leagues, designed for leagues like North Fort Myers to compete on a level playing field with other leagues of similar size.
Looking ahead, the league starts its fall ball program shortly after the school year begins, which Lemmerman said has been a valuable tool to gets kids ready for the regular season.
"It gets the kids ready for a larger field or a higher level of play and has gotten bigger over the last few years we've done it," Lemmerman said. "It goes up until before Thanksgiving and we're expecting to be able to hold competitive games this year."
The popularity of Cal Ripken baseball on a national level has increased tremendously, competing with Little League Baseball as the premier youth baseball organization in the country.
Ripken has embraced baseball the way the pros play it, with "50-70" play and the ability to lead off base and balks for the pitchers.
Lemmerman said for his organization Ripken ball is a better fit.
"You can't compare them. They are both excellent organizations. This gives us a chance to get more kids in the program and it's worked really well for us," Lemmerman said. "The kids have had a great time this year."