The plaque unveiled Sunday in memorial for longtime Pittsfield Little League coach David 'Zip' Zerbato, who died at age 50 in 2017.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Little League American Division had a lot to celebrate at Sunday's Opening Day ceremonies.
Chief on the list: last year's success in state tournament play and the life of one of the volunteers who helped make that success possible.
The league's first real season-opening festivities since 2019 featured a touching tribute to longtime coach David "Zip" Zerbato, who died at age 50 in 2017.
Zerbato's widow, Sherry, and their sons helped league president Greg Coscia unveil a plaque just beyond the fence in center field at Deming Park to recognize "Zip" and his contribution to the program.
Coscia read the plaque's message for the crowd: "In memory of David ‘Zip' Zerbato. Manager, Berkshire Bank, 'The Bankers.' 'We practice like we play. We never give up.' "
"I think that's the motto Dave always went by," Coscia said. "I know I coached with him a few times, and he always said, ‘My team is going to take more swings, take more ground balls and make more throws than any other team.'
"He always lived by that. He had great success in this league. I know he meant a lot to a lot of families in this league. The Berkshire Bank team was always a close-knit team, and that's a tribute to Dave and his coaches for all the years."
After the Zerbato family gathered around the monument for a group photo, Sherry Zerbato asked that David's former players on the Berkshire Bank team also gather for a group shot.
This year's youngsters in the league will not get to benefit from David Zerbato's mentorship, but his spirit lives on in the former colleagues and newer coaches who took the field Sunday morning with the league's six teams in a ritual being repeated throughout the county this week and next.
On Saturday, the Pittsfield Little League National Division got underway with three games at Clapp Park. Although the whole league did not gather for one big ceremony, each player was introduced with his or her team in pregame ceremonies for each contest.
Also on Sunday, the Adams-Cheshire Little League held Opening Day ceremonies for Minor and T-ball teams, where retiring Cheshire Police Chief Timothy Garner threw out the first pitch.
Next Saturday, the older Little Leaguers from Adams and Cheshire will head south to march in the Opening Day parade in Dalton as they join forces with the Dalton-Hinsdale Little League for the first time.
That same day, the Cal Ripken teams from Lanesborough and Williamstown and the North Adams-based Northern Berkshire Independent Youth Baseball League will hold their Opening Day events — one day after Friday's 6 p.m. "Baseball Bonanza" celebration of youth baseball at North Adams' Fallon Field.
While each of the programs has plenty to be excited about — particularly as the world of youth sports returns to normal after a total shutdown in spring 2020 — no local league has had as much success beyond Berkshire County in recent years as the Pittsfield Americans.
On Sunday morning, the league recognized last year's 12-year-old State Finalist and 10-year-old State Champion squads in the Opening Day ceremony.
After they took their celebratory laps around the field with their title banners and before the league season kicked off with a ceremonial first pitch, the 2022 players gathered around the fence to watch the unveiling of the memorial plaque for David Zerbato.
"This area really has gone unused," Coscia said of the patch beyond the fence that is home to the memorial. "It used to be planted, and we thought we needed to do something with it. I think it's fitting that the first thing we're going to do to get this area redone is to honor our friend, who we lost too soon, David Zerbato.
"We had a discussion as to which way [the plaque] should face. We decided that Dave would want it to face the field. So it faces the field."
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