By Nathan Eagle
The Cincinnati Enquirer
KINGS MILL - The newly formed South Lebanon Little League of Warren County will celebrate its inaugural Opening Day today. The festivities begin at 10:30 a.m. with a parade from the Union Township Firehouse and across the plate at Riverside Park for the opening ceremony.
Little League "really focuses on the fundamentals of baseball and tries to make really good, solid players," said Julie Bennett, the league's publicity chairman.
About 290 boys and girls ages 5 to 12 will fill the positions of the 24-team league. Children from Kings, Little Miami, Lebanon and Mason school districts comprise the new league.
League Treasurer Norm Bennett started working with a group last summer to create a Warren County Little League as an alternative to Knothole baseball. Little League Baseball, founded in Williamsport, Pa., in 1939 has grown into a worldwide organization with 3 million participants.
"It's little details," Bennett said of Little League. "The rules dictate a better baseball game and promote better fundamental baseball."
Eleven-year-old Ben Bennett notes that a key difference from Knothole is that runners can't lead off before the pitch, making it more challenging to steal against young catchers. He will play catcher and pitcher for the Newark Group Marlins, after playing Knothole ball in Milford's league last year.
"It's a lot more fun because it's more like real baseball," said Ben, a five-season veteran.
Beyond the rules, Norm Bennett sees Little League strengthening the community. Little League games are localized to one park where all teams meet to play.
"Little League is about your community," Norm Bennett said. "You play against friends, and everyone comes down to the same park."
The seven-week season begins April 24.
Marlins coach Rick Johnson has coached his son Jake, 11, since T-ball at age 5.
"It makes me leave the office and get out with (Jake) and his friends and play a little ball," Johnson said.
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