It was a picture-perfect day, but bittersweet for the crowd gathered Sunday morning at for the West Hartford Youth Baseball game between Talcott Transmissions and Blue Back Dental.
The sun was shining brightly, the flowering trees were in full bloom, a local student sang "The Star Spangled Banner" in perfect pitch, and a dad threw out the first ball, marking opening day of the West Hartford Youth Baseball League's 2012 season.
The scene was poignant because that dad was Michael Sorensen, father of , the 10-year-old West Hartford boy who died tragically in a rafting accident in Vermont last summer.
Talcott Transmissions coach Brian White, his voice cracking noticably, spoke about the type of player – and person – Connor was.
"He played the game with enthusiasm and a desire to become the best ballplayer he could be. Connor also played the game with character, honor, and respect ... From the first time I met him I knew he was special by the sparkle in his eye and his enormous smile. He was the player every coach would love to have," White said.
Michael Sorensen spoke to the crowd, too, heartfully thanking everyone for the support his family has received over the past months. "We are eternally grateful. Connor loved playing this game ... you should all be very proud of the way you play this game of baseball."
The WHYBL presented the entire Sorensen family with a frame containing Connor's Talcott Transmissions jersey, and announced that his number – 13 – has now been retired.
In Wolcott Park's center field, an image of the patch that now appears on the jerseys of all WHYBL players is being mounted as a permanent memorial. Connor's photograph is on the cover of the WHYBL 2012 Program Book, with a touching dedication as the introduction. (See PDF.)
The monies raised in Connor's memory, which total more than $25,000, will be used to partially fund the construction of a press box, new dugouts, and a brick facing backstop at Wolcott Park. Construction of the press box should commence later this week.
"We've been overwhelmed by how the league has involved us in planning today, and how to spend the money raised in Connor's name," Michael Sorensen said. He thanked WHYBL President Rob Gallo, Coach Brian White, and the board for the support the family has received.
"It's bittersweet. It's a difficult day to see the team and not have him here, but to honor him in such a way is phenomenal," said Valerie Sorensen, Connor's mom.
"I don't think any parent could ask for more," Michael Sorensen said.