Community unites to welcome Series players, families

Chairs were lined up along West Fourth Street for the city’s Grand Slam Parade as early as Tuesday morning as baseball fans of all ages reserved their spots to personally welcome Williamsport’s newest visitors on Wednesday.

Those chairs quickly filled with thousands of fans as the parade began moving from Susquehanna Street towards downtown. Attendees at the parade were impressed with the welcome, many saying that it was a prime example of the city’s pride for the series.

“It brings everyone out. The outside community can see what Williamsport has to offer,” Cathy Troutman, of Elizabethville, said. Troutman has been coming to the parade with her son and grandkids since they were little and said there is nothing like seeing the teams up close and enjoying the parade and the Little League World Series with her family.

“The comradery of everyone that loves baseball, the whole atmosphere. You see the teams at the games but it isn’t the same,” she said.

Leading the parade this year was the New York White Sabers Drum Corps, of Dansville, New York, to commemorate the next two years that Williamsport will be hosting the Drum Corps International Championships. However, attendees at the parade still cheered loudest for the floats of proud Little League Regional Champions. Players from all 16 teams waved to fans, threw candy and were cheered on by their adoring parents.

“It’s Christmas on steroids for them,” Maco Balkovec, father of Cole Balkovec, of the Canada Regional Champions from Surrey, British Columbia, said.

Balkovec added that he knew his son would be ecstatic with the reaction of the crowd at the parade and that even he is still processing everything that has happened.

“They feel like MLB ball players. You see your child online and he’s wearing the Canada jersey,” Balkovec said. “It hasn’t even sunk in with me yet … that my kid is on team Canada.”

Kids in Little League World Series hats and jerseys rushed up to grab candy on the streets. Brian Anstadt and his son, Conner, came to the parade to see the teams, which Anstadt said Conner has followed since the regional matches.

“He watches all the regionals and all the games throughout the series,” Anstadt, of Hughesville, said. “He likes to put a name with all the faces.”

Conner, a baseball player himself, said that he was most excited to see the Mid-Atlantic team from Staten Island, New York and that he couldn’t wait to go to the Series.

“I want to go to every game,” Conner said.

Malachi Bryan, of Philadelphia, had never seen a parade like the Grand Slam parade and was floored.

“I’ve been to little parades but never one like this,” Bryan said.

Jason Fink, vice president of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, said he couldn’t be happier with the turnout, which could be estimated at over 40,000 people.

“We were very pleased with the participation from the crowd, the Little League teams and all of our entries,” he said.