Cal Ripken baseball fundraiser and opening day in Scottsdale

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

It's one of the best times of the year, baseball season! But, it's not just about spring training. The next generation hit the fields this morning but they had more than just games on their minds.

Today marked opening day for Cal Ripken Baseball with an overwhelming excitement in the air from the kids, parents and league, not just about the first game of the season, but also about giving back to kids in need. 

Under blue skies and crisp weather, and with the help of a furry friend we know as Baxter, little aspiring baseball players took to the fields of Scottsdale.

"It's just a fun sport," kids beamed as they saw our cameras. "I like all the merchandise, the mascot," they told us happily from the sidelines. 

[READ MORE: Spring training in Arizona: What you need to know about the ballparks]

But there was more than just baseball on the brain out at Thompson Peak Park near Hayden and Thompson Peak Parkway.

"Watching little kids play is even more exciting than watching the major league guys play," says Cal Ripken President Brett Johnson.

Coach Mike Poe mimicked the sentiment. "There's nothing more heart-warming than seeing these kids happy at the end of the season and ready to do it again next year."  

As 1,100 kids and 95 teams get ready to play ball here, a number of children in California are facing being benched. "There's a little league in Petaluma, California that was affected by the Napa fires this year," Johnson said. "125 families lost their homes and lost the equipment on the field."  
So today, as the start of the Cal Ripken season gets underway, the league decided to use this monumental occasion as way to give back.

"They lost everything," Cal Ripken Board Member Tony Terry said. Explaining that the items desperately needed will include, "catchers equipment, tees, bases, gloves, and batting helmets."  

An online fundraiser and raffle begins today and will continue through March 10.

The goal for Scottsdale Cal Ripken is to help raise $3,000 for those California little leaguers, because at the end of the day, as Johnson puts it best, "Kids should have the opportunity to play whether they've had a tragedy or not." 

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