FORT POLK, La. - The Fort Polk Youth Sports Program's baseball and softball seasons began April 9 with a ceremony that included Cub Scouts, ball players, the post garrison commander and a stirring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" sung by one of this year's participants.

John Stromberg, Youth Sports Program director, started the day's events by calling on Chap. (Capt.) Thomas Gidley to open the ceremony with prayer. Next up was Alexa Simoneaux, 11, who sang the national anthem. Simoneaux, a member of the Fort Polk Army Brats softball team, received a rousing ovation for her effort. During the performance, Fort Polk's Cub Scout Pack 72 conducted a flag-raising ceremony at the complex's flagpole.

Stromberg spoke about the increase in players over the 2010 season.

"We have 529 participants this year," he said. "That's 140 more than last year. We look forward to a great year."

Next up was Fort Polk Garrison Commander Col. Francis Burns, who thanked those who volunteered their time and expertise.

"I'd like to especially thank our volunteer coaches," Burns said. "With the 4/10 (4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division) deployed, a lot of our volunteer coaches don't even have children playing.

"We appreciate them being not only coaches, but also mentors."

Burns then introduced youth baseball player Brodie Prairie who tossed the first pitch, and softball player Jordan Taylor, who caught the first pitch, to officially begin the season.

In closing, Burns told the ball players, including 26 T-ball teams, "Now it's time to throw, catch and hit. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains. The main thing is to enjoy yourself and have fun."