Book it from here to eternity –M.O.T. Little League will now open each season with “Nuttsy Night.” A new tradition began last Friday when local legend Larry “Nuts” Mannering began his 40th season in the league by leading his 11- and 12-year-old Smokey’s Major Baseball team in its first regular season game.


   Book it from here to eternity –M.O.T. Little League will now open each season with “Nuttsy Night.”

   A new tradition began last Friday night when local legend Larry “Nuts” Mannering began his 40th season in the league by leading his 11- and 12-year-old Smokey’s Major Baseball team in its first regular season game.

   “Nuttsy Night” will include baseball and softball games played on the Friday night before the official opening day ceremonies on Saturday morning. It’s a tribute to the man who has devoted countless hours to the local sports scene, first as a pitching star on M.O.T.’s 1965 Major state champion, followed by decades managing teams each spring and summer.

   A lineup full of former players and friends arrived last Friday night to pay tribute, and Mannering was honored with a few tributes in a short pregame ceremony. The formerly fireballing righthander lofted three opening pitches to his former players Brennan McAllister and Tyler Reynolds, plus current Smokey’s catcher Steve Sapp.

   Mannering, a huge local sports fan who seemingly has the inside scoop on everything, was a bit surprised at the turnout for his special night. The tribute idea was the brainchild of board member/manager/coordinator Mick Tomlin.

   “I knew something was coming, but didn’t think it would be nothing like that,” Mannering said. “I got a hint from (Major League coordinator) Howard (Andrus), but thought he was halfway kidding. I wish I could have invited more of my former players and friends to take part, but this was still a very special night.”

   There have been plenty of special nights at the ballpark for Mannering – who managed M.O.T. to consecutive state championships in 2007 and 2008 – but mostly a string of routine practices and games that every manager experiences. Difference was, the 58-year-old was part of the action for four decades.

   “Nuts” said he’s evolved as a leader and plans to stay involved for at least five more years before evaluating his options. He’s still going strong in a fulltime job with New Castle County in the sewer department, and says he’s feeling fine physically.

   It’s each new generation of ballplayers that keeps him coming back, even if he’s ready to take a break by August and follow his Middletown High Cavaliers sports teams.

   “At this level the most important thing you need is the players respect,” Mannering said. “When I was younger I flew off the handle a lot and had a big bark. At the age of 11 and 12, they pretty much understand I’m just trying to get them to play better.”

FAVORITES

Here are some of Larry “Nuts” Mannering’s favorite things:

MIDDLETOWN HS ATHLETICS I’ve always followed them, and try to see each team play at least once.

PRO TEAMS Phillies and Yankees. I don’t know why I love the Yankees, but I always have.

MOM JUANITA She was very involved. She and some other ladies were the ones who raised enough money to put lights at Duke Field.

SIMENDINGERS My start with baseball came in (the) Sharondale (neighborhood), playing in the backyard with Greg Simendinger. His dad Tom was a manager who did a lot to keep kids interested.

BEST BATS I pitched to a lot of guys and the best bats I saw were Jute Woodlyn, Jay Copper, Scott Reihm and Alan Sheats.

MOMENT It was a night in 2008 when we were down two runs to Milford in the last inning of the state championship game. There were two outs and Josh Billings took a pitch on a 2-2 count that could have been called a strike and ended. It was called a ball and he then hit a home run. Adam Weber and Tommy Spagnolo followed with homers and we won the title. I still can’t believe I saw it happen.

HIS MANAGERS Two of the best managers I played for were in all-stars – Jack Pickett and Al Nabb. I’ve had plenty of good ones, including my first one, Bob Marker of the Wheels. It was Fred Carpenter in Senior League, Joe Bolea in high school, Jim Williams for a year at Delaware State and Bob Henry.