Photos: Little League fields dedicated to fallen soldiers

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Little League players kicked off their 2013 season Saturday morning.

Nearly 500 Little League ballplayers helped dedicate the ballfields in Calverton Saturday morning that are now named after two fallen soldiers from Wading River.

It was a day to bring together families and honor two sons who gave their lives for America’s freedom. Georgia Gabrielsen began the dedication with a beautiful rendition of “God Bless America.”

The ballplayers, who make up 38 teams, paraded around ‘Field One’ with their coaches (dedicated to Army Sgt. Jonathan Keller) behind the Color Guards of the VFW and American Legion of Riverhead and the Boy Scouts.

[Related: Memory of two fallen soldiers to be honored at ballfield.]

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who worked hard for seven years to get the ballfields completed, spoke at the opening.

“I’m so proud to be here today for our veterans who have given so much to our country for our freedom. It is overwhelming for me to be at this historic event at our beautiful 62-acre Veterans Memorial Park.”

He added, looking over a sea of ballplayers wearing many colors, “You guys are so lucky to be the first to play on these fields.”

Supervisor Sean Walter said the fields are dedicated to Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr. and Sgt. Keller.

“Because of their sacrifices we stand here today on these fields. Every time you step on them you know this is sacred ground. Play your hearts out for these young men, for it is a memorial to them.”

After the fields were dedicated, the parents of the two fallen soldiers unveiled the signs bearing their names.

Linda Keller and Marion Venetz threw out the ceremonial first pitches on each field.

Sky dive instructor Patty Schneider of Sky Dive Long Island, landed perfectly in the outfield of ‘Field 2’, which is named after Sgt. Venetz. And finally a Wading River pumper truck sprayed the outfield of Sgt. Keller Field as some players ran out to catch the water spray.

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