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Citrus Park arrives in Williamsport

Residents of Williamsport, Pa., watch the welcome parade featuring all representatives at the Little League World Series.

Associated Press

Residents of Williamsport, Pa., watch the welcome parade featuring all representatives at the Little League World Series.

Life is pretty sweet for Southeast representative Citrus Park at the Little League World Series.

Since arriving in Williamsport, Pa., after an exhausting nine-hour trip — two hours of which were spent waiting for a bus at the airport in Newark, N.J., another five riding on said bus — the only difficult decision facing the players is choosing between free games of pingpong and Nintendo Wii or cannonballs in the pool.

"It's really nice," Citrus Park outfielder Daniel Martin said. "They have a pool, dining area, gift shop and a game room for everybody."

Wednesday, the team from northwest Hillsborough County spent an hour with baseball equipment suppliers and grabbed enough swag to make its coaches wonder why they spent so much time packing.

"Easton provided every kid with a bat," Citrus Park manager Joe McGuire said. "Everybody got Easton shoes; I got some coaching shoes and the kids got some cleats. They also provided us with three sets of catchers gear, with the World Series insignia on it. Louisville Slugger gave the kids batting gloves and bats. Wilson gives the kids batting gloves, helmet and bats."

The dormitories where the coaches and players stay are "really nice" according to McGuire. Citrus Park is sharing the first floor with Mexico representative Matamoros LL.

"It's kind of hard to talk to some of the kids because they obviously don't know English," Martin said. "If you talk to the kids from Japan you have to use hand motions. … Saudi Arabia knows English, Mexico does a little bit, Curacao does a little bit. Japan and Europe, not really."

Thursday, the team rode on a float with the Caribbean representative from Curacao in a parade through downtown Williamsport.

Oh, and there's also the little matter of playing baseball. Citrus Park begins its quest for the World Series championship at 2 p.m. today against Canyon Lake LL (Rapid City, S.D.).

The team held half-hour practices Wednesday and Thursday at Volunteer and Lamade stadiums, where the World Series games will be played, and spent an hour each day in the batting cages. A half-hour session with a strength and conditioning coach taught the team how to stretch properly.

"(The field) looks great," Martin said. "The grass is nice. The play is good. The dugouts are good. Everything looking out to the outfield looks nice. I can't wait to play on it."

After dismantling Alabama in the Southeast Region final at Gulfport, Citrus Park is one of the favorites to capture the U.S. championship, possibly more.

"We have a good team," Martin said. "We have a good defense. But there are some good teams here, the best from where they come. So it'll be a challenge."

>>FAST FACTS

Little League World Series

When/where: Today-Aug. 24, Williamsport, Pa.

Citrus Park opener: Today vs. Midwest region champion Canyon Lake LL (Rapid City, S.D.), 2 p.m., ESPN

>>FAST FACTS

Batter up

Format: Eight regional championship teams from the United States are separated into pools of four teams. Each team plays three pool games, and the top two finishers from each pool advance to the U.S. semifinal. Simultaneously, a group of eight international teams play the same format as the U.S. tournament. The U.S. and international champions meet Aug. 24 for the world championship.

Citrus Park's pool play schedule: Today vs. Midwest region champ Canyon Lake LL (Rapid City, S.D.), 2 p.m., ESPN; Sunday vs. West region champ Waipio LL (Waipahu, Hawaii), 8 p.m., ESPN2; Monday vs. New England region champ Shelton National LL (Connecticut), 6 p.m., ESPN2

Citrus Park arrives in Williamsport 08/14/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 15, 2008 4:21pm]
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