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50 years in the game

More than 1,000 youngsters to help mark milestone Saturday
By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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In 1959, four local businessmen each donated $25 to start a baseball program for Lincoln’s youth. On Saturday, 50 years after its humble beginnings, more than 600 of Lincoln’s youth will wear their uniforms for the first time, pile into trucks and ride in a parade to McBean Park. They will then attend opening ceremonies for Little League’s new season, followed by all players participating in a two-inning exhibition game, said Caron Russell, the events coordinator for Lincoln’s Little League. Players from the Lincoln Girls Softball Association will also be in Saturday’s parade. Opening Ceremonies are at each leagues’ fields (Little League at McBean and Lincoln Girls Softball Association at Twelve Bridges). About 1,000 kids will participate in Saturday’s event, with about 300 of them being girls from softball, Russell said. The ages of the kids range from 5-18, she added. Bailey McIntosh is looking forward to riding in the back of the truck and tossing out candy during Saturday’s parade. The 11-year-old, who has played Little League for more than half his life as he heads into his seventh year with the organization, said he has made many friends. “I play catcher and first base,” Bailey said, adding that his favorite part of the game is when he bats. Bailey is playing on the Rangers this year. The Rangers is one of his favorite professional teams, he said. The approximately 630 players will parade Saturday under the review of a special set of grand marshals, Russell said. In 1980, a Lincoln Little League team made it as far as the Northern California Championship, Russell said. Although they came up short in that game, she added, it was an accomplishment just reaching that point. On Saturday, 13 members of that team, which has gone farther than any other in the league’s history, will be the parade’s grand marshals. Raymond Garcia, one of those players, said he’s excited to see his old teammates, some of whom he hasn’t spoken with since just after that last game. “That was like being in the Major Leagues at that age,” Garcia said. “It was pretty awesome.” Kym Milisci, coaching a team of 7 and 8-year-olds this year, said Little League is a perfect way to “teach young kids life skills, how to become responsible citizens and to be good people, other than just the game of baseball.” Coaching since 1998, Milisci said he enjoys having members with different personalities on his teams. Cole Milisci, his 8-year-old son, is on his team, and Milisci has coached him since tee-ball, where kids between the ages of 4 and 6 get their start in baseball. “He loves playing baseball and being involved with everyone else,” Milisci said. “He loves to be competitive.” Saturday’s parade begins at 9 a.m., and will go down Seventh Street to E Street, then go down Fifth Street before Turning on D Street to head to McBean Park, Russell said. “It’s fun and it’s colorful and it’s very cool that Lincoln lets us do this,” Russell said. “We’re supported by Parks and Recreation, the city and the police.” Also in the parade will be teams from the Lincoln Girls’ Softball Association, bringing the total number of teams in the parade to between 70 and 80. “I think sometimes people should stop and reflect on what Little League does for the community,” Milisci said. “It’s (run by) volunteers, and it’s really valuable for our public.” For more information about Little League in Lincoln, check online at www.lincolnllbaseball.org. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.