The noisemakers of choice at Little League tournaments these days are plastic drink bottles filled with beads.
Every other fan at Veterans Park had one Sunday afternoon and shook it at appropriate times during the District 9 All-Star Tournament.
Melissa Neal and her stepdaughter Michelle Neal have determined, through trial and error, that three-quarters of an inch of plastic beads in a 20-ounce bottle makes the best noisemaker.
It has become customary to use color-coded beads.
“Some people put rocks in, but we put in beads with our team colors. It’s prettier,” Melissa Neal, 38, said.
“We’re Dale City. We’re red, white and blue,” Michelle, 25, said.
The women said as far as they knew, the practice has become popular in the last four or five years.
“You hear it and then everybody wants one,” Michelle said.
Woodbridge Little League president Bob Studholme said he started hearing the noisemakers about a decade ago.
“The first time I heard that was back in ’91 or ’92 in the Central Springfield Little League. It’s a great thing. To me, that sound, this time of year, means Little League All-Stars,” he said.
Thirty-four teams from around the area came to the tournament in Woodbridge which will continue daily, with the exception of Independence Day, until July 17, said Lowell Easterly, District 9 administrator.
This is the first year that all District 9 All-Star teams have played in one place, Easterly said.
There are 34 teams competing in four age groups ranging from 9 to 16 years old, Easterly said of the tournament roster.
“We’ve always had a host league for the 9 and 10s and another host league for the majors and then another one for the juniors and another for the seniors,” Easterly, 64, said.
Studholme said having all the teams in one place works better for him. In previous years, he said, he shuttled between fields when his sons played in different divisions.
“I had to use my cell phone to find out the scores,” Studholme said.
Michelle Neal likes having everyone together too.
“This is a blast. I grew up on these fields and now my brother, who’s 9 years old is playing on the same field,” Michelle Neal.
Although opening ceremonies Friday were canceled because of rain and thunderstorms, games went on as scheduled Saturday and Sunday.
Easterly said the four fields, which are finally are dry enough to play on, have looked better in years past.
“We had water standing for days and weeks on end,” he said of the green with freshly chalked baselines.
Jaime Hicks, of Dale City Little League, has played in the All-Star Tournaments several times and said she looks forward to them each season.
“This is the best part of the whole year,” Jaime, 14, said.