PITTSFIELD -- It might have been a little too damp and a little too chilly to play baseball at Deming Field on Sunday, but the feelings at Deming were warm.
That’s because the Pittsfield Babe Ruth League held its opening ceremonies, which included the announcement that the 13-year old league will now be named for the late Lionel "Duke" Doucette.
"It was wonderful, it really was," said Doucette’s widow Rosemary. "He loved what he was doing, and he loved the kids."
Doucette, who died on Dec. 18, 2013 at the age of 84, established the 13-year old league more than three decades ago. He was a longtime member of the state Babe Ruth Baseball board of directors, was the district commissioner for Berkshire County and was a state commissioner.
Doucette helped shepherd Pittsfield into Babe Ruth, as one of three original members of the program. Pittsfield, Westfield and Leominster were the first three Babe Ruth programs in Massachusetts.
"He really enjoyed his job," said George Beckwith, the current District 1 director. "Kids came first in his book when it came to baseball.
"I’m really glad they’re recognizing Duke."
In addition to his baseball duties, Doucette was also a longtime basketball coach at the Pittsfield Catholic Youth Center.
The ceremony took place in mid-afternoon. Rosemary Doucette and Duke’s brother Joe threw out ceremonial first pitches. Also throwing out a ceremonial first pitch was Taconic pitcher Steve Witkowski, who was a member of the Pittsfield 15-year old team that went to the Babe Ruth World Series in Arkansas in 2012. That team was also honored.
Steve White is the current president of the Pittsfield Babe Ruth League, and he called the honor fitting.
"Duke himself helped create it in this county," said White. "He was a big leader for it. He loved the 13-year olds being separate and getting a lot of playing time.
"I can’t say enough about Duke."
White has coached and managed in the Pittsfield Babe Ruth League for more than a decade. He said that Doucette once predicted big things for him.
"Duke took me right under his wing," said White. "When I first came into the league, he said ‘You’re going to be a good coach. You’re going to be an All-Star coach.’ I didn’t know that at the time. As we went on, he helped get me on the board of directors and here I am as president. He told me I was going to run the league some day and here I am.
"The thing with Duke was he was always about the children and always about teamwork."