MARIETTA, Ga. -- Thirty little league baseball seasons have now started since the 1983 East Marietta team became the first in the state to win a World Championship. The 11-year-olds' team beat the Dominican Republic in 1983 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
"It does seem like a long time ago, especially with all these sore bones and aches and pains," said team member Jeff Gray. "Just looking at this field brings back memories of Mr. Hilton yelling at you, hugging you. Mrs. Hilton said it best-we lived here at the park, and we were all part of a family."
This season will be the first in 45 years that Coach Richard Hilton won't be there to watch. The manager of the 1983 team passed away this past December. As they celebrated the start of a new season at Sewell Park, the East Marietta teams applauded Hilton's family and dedicated two new fields in his honor.
"Little league was his first love and I was his second," said Hilton's widow Betty. "But I was ok with that because I knew how much he loved little league. It was almost like a religion to him. He loved the children, he loved teaching the children."
Through new generations, those lessons about life on and off the field live on.
"He said if you wanted to be successful in life you have to treat people right and don't treat them like you wouldn't want to be treated," said current little leaguer Bailey Schreiner.