Pacific Palisades Baseball Association organizers navigated the unknown caused by the pandemic and City regulations to ensure that the annual Pancake Breakfast and opening day would take place this year.
Navigated with elan and improvisation, the traditional celebration went off without a hitch on March 12 at the Recreation Center and Field of Dreams.
PPBA has been a community mainstay since 1954. Annually, the pancake breakfast is open to everyone and held in conjunction with the first pitch being tossed out, generally by a celebrity or athlete.
This year Chase Utley, a second baseman who played in the major leagues for 16 seasons, primarily with the Phillies, threw out the first pitch.
It probably didn’t take a lot to get him to commit, because Utley, a Palisades resident, has two sons playing in PPBA this year.
Bob Benton, who has served as the PPBA commissioner for an unprecedented 36 years, said, “This is Americana at its best with baseball and food – nothing is better than pancakes.”
Benton was chatting with Augie Sylk, who played PPBA as a kid, but never made an all-star team. Yet the left-handed pitcher went on to start for Palisades High School and then at USC before being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2019. His story was an inspiring tale for the young PPBA players. (He’s also the great-grandson of Bing Crosby.)
Rick McGeagh, who has been a coach and is now on the PPBA board, said, “It’s the second most joyous day of the year in the Palisades.” (Most residents acknowledge the Fourth of July celebration as the top.)
“I’m excited to see the PPBA thriving with more players than ever,” said McGeagh, who’s been with the organization since 2004.
Robyn Casady oversaw the breakfast, which was different this year because it was catered.
“Because of Covid, we didn’t know if we’d be able to have parents working together in close contact preparing food,” said Casady, who has organized the event the past four years. “We tried to make it feel the same as it always was, and hopefully we’ll totally be back to normal next year.”
Generally, the players are tasked with selling tickets for the breakfast, an important fundraiser for the organization, as well as a community outreach.
To ensure the breakfast, numerous families donated toward the cost, which this year also hashbrowns, burritos and fruit.
Casady, whose twins are Broncos, will be passing along her volunteer job to someone new next year – and she’ll join the long line of Pacific Palisades residents who have held that position.
Another new addition to the day was a baseball equipment swap/trade. Staci Woo explained that she got the idea when her family was in Hawaii. “There was a surfboard swap that happened once a month and it was such a community event,” she said.
Older players were invited to bring bats, gloves and pants they might have outgrown and make them available to new players. Most of the gear was nearly new and in great condition—because a bat that works when a player is seven and playing Pintos, needs to be replaced when he (or she) moves up to the Broncos.
“It’s also an effort to be more sustainable,” Woo said, and a way to have the older kids mentor younger ones, such as helping them select a bat.
There was also a busy stand manned by Meredith Hill and Michelle Moore, where players and adults could buy PPBA caps and long- and short-sleeved PPBA T-shirts.
“We bought the merchandise two years ago and then the pandemic hit, and we had to store it,” Hill and Moore said.
Bliss Knapp was successful in finding 36 sponsors to pay for the uniforms, and she’s also working on banners that are hung on fences around the four diamonds at the Field of Dreams. (CTN will run the sponsors over the next four days in Musings, in order to acknowledge the businesses/nonprofits that support the town’s ballplayers.)
Long-time beloved umpire Dirk Robinson is back as the head of the umpires. In June, Robinson had part of his right foot partially amputated because of complications of diabetes. He was at the field overseeing the umpires: Everett Donigan, Treyvan and Emerson Grant, Craig Outlaw and Felipe Rodriquez.
“I’m the back-up,” Robinson told CTN.