Bucky Dent a big hit with Little League

| 03 May 2012 | 01:28

WEST MILFORD — The weather was damp and dreary but the mood was anything but at last Thursday's opening night for the West Milford Little League. And much of the excitement centered on the special guest, New York Yankees' hero Bucky Dent, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Dent was introduced by league vice president Mark Minadeo, a big Yankees fan himself, after the playing of the audio call of Dent's blast in Fenway Park back in 1978. That got the crowd going as Yankees' announcer Bill White made the call of the play that helped put the Yankees on track to win their second world championship in a row.

Before Dent was introduced, all of the West Milford Little League players walked out onto the field, from t-ballers to instructional to minors and majors. The younger players were greeted by their major counterparts, giving high fives for good luck.

"This is what it's all about. This is where it all begins," said Dent to the enthusiastic crowd.

Dent said Mickey Mantle was his hero growing up and he was lucky enough to have the opportunity to hit the big homerun. Dent did more than that, winning the 1978 World Series most valuable player award. Dent was wearing his 1977 World Series ring.

After the ceremony, Dent signed autographs for fans and sat for pictures. One young fan brought three Dent baseball cards - in their cases - for his signature. Michael Claudio, 13, said one was for each set of grandparents and the other for his parents, Ken and Loida.

Another fan brought a baseball that had already been signed previously by Yankees greats Ron Guidry and Roy White. Another had a yearbook from Dent's playing days and a Yankees jacket to sign.

All of the proceeds from the night went to the league. Sponsors paid for Dent's appearance. Outback of Butler was on hand selling mega burgers and chicken sandwiches, donating their proceeds to the league as well. BJ Carvana, owner of the Butler eatery, said it's something he enjoys doing, especially since a large part of his staff and clientèle are from West Milford.

So, despite the drizzly weather, all went smoothly and the season is officially started.

"It was a great night," said Minadeo.