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Gainesville Little Leaguers continue annual tradition of opening day parade
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Balloons are released to mark the beginning of the 2012 Gainesville Parks and Recreation Little League baseball season Saturday morning at City Park during the annual Little League Parade. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

If Gainesville isn’t a baseball town, what is?

Statements like this and similar remarks could be heard all over City Park on Saturday as Gainesville celebrated the beginning of its 2012 Little League season.

The opening ceremony included Gainesville’s 55 Little League teams, 628 players and 165 volunteer coaches.

Children and coaches carried banners decorated with players’ names and balloons representing team colors. The family and friends of Little League players surrounded the stadium as each team marched onto the field and each child and coach was mentioned by name.

“I love the small-town feel of all this and the fellowship with neighbors and friends,” said Rebekah Rico, whose son, Isaiah Rico, 7, is playing for the Cyclones this season.

The Rico family made a morning out of the parade with Rico’s mother and Isaiah’s grandmother, Lynn Henson, looking on, along with Isaiah’s new baby sister.

Henson said her sons played Little League in Gainesville when they were young, and now her grandson was carrying on the tradition.

“We grew up on these fields,” Rebekah Rico said.

There were plenty of things Isaiah loves about playing baseball, but he especially loves catching and running the bases. He also enjoys his friends on his team.

“I like to mess around with them,” Isaiah said.

The opening ceremony also included the singing of the national anthem, an invocation, presentation of the colors by the Gainesville High School ROTC and the ceremonial first pitch.

Perhaps no better way summed up the morning than a comment by a bystander: “Let’s play ball!”

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