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Remembering George Costa
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Less than three months before the start of the Ceres Youth Baseball & Softball organization's 2008 campaign, Mike Borges called Cliff Hurt to pass on some heartbreaking news.

George Costa passed away at the age of 89 on Jan. 13 in Modesto. Costa dedicated 44 years of his life to coaching Little League in Ceres. The city's ballpark was named in his honor 35 years ago.

"Me and George were very close," said Hurt, who assisted Costa for 10 seasons. "When I used to visit him (at Evergreen Rehabilitation Care Center), it got to a point where he'd start crying when I walked in there.

"I did the fields with George," Hurt added. "That's when I first met him. He was great for me and the upbringing of my four sons. Everybody in the community knew him and loved him."

Hurt and Co. took time to remember Costa on an emotional Opening Day on April 5.

Ceres City Councilman Rob Phipps was also recalled. He died in December. Phipps was 44.

Ceres Police Department chaplain Joel Richards led the prayer.

More than 1,000 people were in attendance.

"It was a great ceremony," CYBS president Lance Goblirsch said. "Everything went real well. It was packed, standing-room only. We had cars parked everywhere."

Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella caught the first pitch for baseball from son Caleb.

Mikaela Stevenson threw out the first pitch for softball to councilmember Bret Durossette.

Ceres Police Sgt. Howard Stevenson, Mikaela's father, was killed in a Jan. 9, 2005 shoot-out with a suspect in front of George's Liquors on Caswell Avenue.

Brandon Ramos of Turlock performed the national anthem. He used to live in Ceres and watched hundreds of games at George Costa Ball Field Complex in Smyrna Park.

"He woke Ceres up," Goblirsch said.

Modesto Nuts mascot Wally the Walnut also greeted fans.

As expected, the complex's five fields were in superb shape thanks to the hard work of longtime head groundskeeper Red Simmons.

"He worked from the second week of February to opening day to make sure everything was ready," Goblirsch said.

Costa, Red's mentor and friend, used to maintain the fields.

"He did it with a shovel and pickup," Simmons said in an article printed in The Ceres Courier in June 2006. "He had to pull hoses to all of the fields. I got the luxury of having sprinklers. I got a tractor, quad and all of the latest line of equipment. And I still can't do it as good as he can."

CYBS serves more than 1,000 boys and girls, aged 5-18.

The league is comprised of 84 teams, including 58 baseball and 26 softball.

There are five divisions for baseball players: 6&under, 8&under, 10&under, 12&under and 15&under.

There are five divisions for softball players: 6&under, 8&under, 10&under, 13&under and 18&under.

More than 1,000 games will be played during the course of the 2008 season.

Baseball games are held on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Softball contests on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.