CHICAGO -- Imagine the excitement when Little Leaguer and White Sox fan Elijah Laws came to the plate at Guenzi Field in Tinley Park on Saturday afternoon, and was introduced by legendary White Sox public address announcer Gene Honda."It was a great experience," said Laws, who was the first player
CHICAGO -- Imagine the excitement when Little Leaguer and White Sox fan Elijah Laws came to the plate at Guenzi Field in Tinley Park on Saturday afternoon, and was introduced by legendary White Sox public address announcer Gene Honda.
"It was a great experience," said Laws, who was the first player to bat. "We did not know this was going to happen until the game started. We were so surprised."
As part of MLB's inaugural Play Ball Weekend, the White Sox brought the fanfare of a game at U.S. Cellular Field to the far south suburbs, for the Tinley Park Bulldogs 11-12-year-old Bronco division game.
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"This is just a great experience for our players," Tinley Park Bulldogs baseball commissioner Matt Windle said of the surprise that has been in the works since January. "The White Sox are very good about giving back to the community and they were very kind to work with us."
All 30 MLB teams participated in the Play Ball Weekend. It is an extension of Major League Baseball's Play Ball program, which started in 2015 and is the sport's largest initiative to encourage youth involvement in formal and informal softball and baseball activities.
In addition to Honda announcing, famed White Sox organist Lori Moreland opened the ballgame with the National Anthem and played traditional ballpark tunes when each Bulldog came to bat. The Little Leaguers also received expert instruction during the game from former White Sox outfielder Mike Huff, who coached third base for both squads during the seven-inning contest.
The festivities continued off the field as well, with White Sox mascot Southpaw interacting with players' siblings, parents and community members, and the Mazda Pride Crew leading interactive games and White Sox giveaways.
White Sox fan and Bulldogs second baseman Ryan Neilly described the big league experience through the eyes of a Little Leaguer.
"When you're watching it on TV, you're used to it," Neilly said, whose favorite White Sox player is Adam Eaton. "But when they're here in person, it's awesome."
The surprise and excitement was not only evident on the faces of the players, but the coaching staff as well, as many of them were unaware of the grand gesture from the White Sox organization.
"This was great for everyone," Ryan's dad and Bulldogs coach John Neilly said. "The kids were so excited and even we [coaches] thought it was great."
Timothy Hilton is a contributor to MLB.com.