Thousands gather to greet Taylor North Little League team
Taylor — Thousands of people lined streets and filled a local park Thursday evening to greet the Taylor North Little League team that Sunday became just the second team from Michigan to win the Little League Baseball World Series championship.
More than six decades after the boys from Hamtramck won the championship in 1959, people lined the streets with blankets and chairs to cheer in a parade that kicked off at the Taylor Recreation Center and made its way to Heritage Park.
The cheers were punctuated by the drums and trumpets of the Taylor High School marching band, which joined hundreds of students, parents, teachers and coaches from Taylor’s school system marching down Pardee Road.
Softball players and younger baseball players tossed handfuls of hard candy and lollipops to the parade's bystanders, with some of the children running behind them to collect as much bounty as they could off the streets.
"This is the best thing to ever happen in Taylor!" Bill Deloach said from his lawn chair near Heritage Park.
"It's definitely the most exciting," added the longtime Taylor resident.
Restaurant patrons along the parade's path walked away from food on their tables, some carrying their drinks to the curb, to watch the procession, pointing at the players and clapping for the team that breezed through the postseason, winning 15 out of 16 games.
The team’s homecoming was the culmination of almost a week of celebrations that included a red-carpet welcome by the Tigers at Comerica Park on Tuesday. College coaches shared words of encouragement on Twitter, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent congratulation and good-luck messages on social media.
Heading the parade were some 80 bikes, their riders sporting neon green shirts that read “Taylor Bike Crew” in large block letters.
“I’m so happy for the kids,” said the group’s founder, Lisa Keck-Kujaw, who was visibly ecstatic 40 minutes before the parade started and despite admittedly not following baseball closely.
“Their win really sends a messagein this time of crazy politics and division, and brings the community together,” said Keck-Kujaw.
Behind the bikers were swathes of folks, adults and children alike, wearing Taylor North baseball uniforms. Among them were John Bassonetti and his two sons, Jackson and Maddox, who play in the younger leagues in Taylor. He said he was most impressed by what he saw of the team's dedication behind the scenes.
“We get to watch day in and day out how hard they work, and they definitely deserve today."
Jackson, 10, hopes to play in the World Series in a couple of years when he's old enough. His father encouraged him: "You have to work hard!"
"Yeah," said Jackson. "You have to earn it."
After the parade, the players and coaches signed autographs for hundreds who waited in line ahead of a fireworks show after dusk.