Longtime youth sports contributor battling cancer By Mike O’Neil April 22, 2012 2:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — there was no question Portsmouth Little League was going to honor longtime volunteer Chris Anderson Sr. during Opening Day ceremonies. the only question was where the ceremony was going to take place.
“Chris really isn’t a guy that looks to be in the spotlight,” said Portsmouth Little League president Kathie Lynch. “For all of his contributions, he prefers to be in the background. so when we told him we were going to honor him this year, we knew it might be a challenge to get him here. we told him if he wasn’t going to join us, we were going to bring Opening Day to his front yard.”
Anderson did make it out, and so did countless friends and supporters who came out to not only honor the longtime city volunteer, but to open the 62nd season of Little League Baseball in the city of Portsmouth Saturday morning at Leary Field.
“Oh, I believe Kathie would have gotten me here one way or another,” said Anderson. “I didn’t realize there would be so many people, a proclamation from the mayor, this is over the top.”
For Anderson, who has been diagnosed with cancer, it was an emotional showing of support.
“It’s a very humbling thing,” said Anderson. “It’s not something that someone solicits, but it’s humbling to have that many people. I’ve always been blessed to have that kind of friends and family. but until I got cancer, I didn’t realize how many I really had. It’s sad to get this kind of disease, but a lot of good comes out of it.”
Along with countless hours of time donated to the city, Anderson — along with Mike Doran — saw the need to consolidate the city’s three Little League organizations following the closure of Pease Air Force Base. Knowing that a combined league would strengthen baseball in the city, Anderson championed the combination that resulted in the creation of Portsmouth East Little League, and ultimately the unified league in 2002.
Today 261 players are involved in the league, including those in the newly restructured 7- and 8-year-old division.
“It’s something I would have never, never imagined,” said Anderson. “It’s so much more. we went from four teams in four leagues to what they have today, and they run the gamut with the Challenger Division.”
After becoming fully merged in 2002, Portsmouth Little League won six state titles and a new England championship over the next 10 seasons.
“So much of what happened to the league was because of Chris,” said Lynch. “It didn’t matter what your skill level was or where you lived, all he wanted is for kids to get out and have the chance to play baseball. so much of what you see here today is because of him.”
From donations, to advice, to equipment, Anderson always made sure that the teams representing Portsmouth were always able to savor the experience of being a champion. for each of their runs, you could find the silent benefactor along the outfield fence, taking in the experience just like the players on the field.
“There are so many great memories,” said Anderson. “The best times were coming down here and sitting up there in the corner of the bleachers after a Little League game and just talking baseball during the Babe Ruth game.”
In a proclamation, Assistant Mayor Bob Lister challenged the Little Leaguers to emulate the dedication of Anderson. Among those honored were a pair of Little Leaguers that have already started to demonstrate the same qualities.
Catching ceremonial first pitches from Anderson and Lister were Cooper Roy and Nathan McKee. Roy was responsible for the hundreds of yellow ribbons given to the Opening Day crowd in memory of Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney, while McKee sought support for his mother’s run in the Boston Marathon in memory of those who have lost loved ones to cancer.
“It shows the initiative to help others is so strong in our community,” said Lynch. “It’s almost like the circle closes. When we as adults give time and effort, kids pick up on that. they know that’s how things get done. It instills that value of working. It’s what I said about Chris, he didn’t do these kind of things to get something. He just wanted to make sure the kids had every opportunity, and that message isn’t lost on the kids.”
After tossing a strike to McKee, Anderson asked him to sign the baseball, in essence handing the next generation of volunteers the same sense of selflessness.
“The reason I did these kind of things is because someone did it for me,” said Anderson. “Back when I was in high school, there was that sense of community that meant something to the players. We’re getting back to that, that’s why I had him sign my baseball.”
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