STATE COLLEGE - There was a sea of silver, purple and black swarming around the ballpark Saturday at the State College Spikes' Mifflin-Juniata counties night.
Representing the Mifflin County area were a number of people from different groups, ranging from high school to Little League, from Lewistown Hospital to the Elks Lodge and members of the Mifflin County Correctional Facility.
Prior to the start of the game, the Mifflin County cheer squad tumbled their way around the ball park. When the 2012-13 school year begins, the squad will begin its first year in cheering competition as a sport.
Sentinel photo by STEVE MANUEL
Boys from the Seven Mountains Sod Little League team from Mifflin County take the field at Saturday night’s home game with State College Spikes baseball players as part of the Field of Dreams program. For more photos of the game, visit cu.lewistownsentinel.com.
"We are trying to get ready for the upcoming school year and this is our first big event for all of these girls as well as for myself," cheer coach Collette Bender said. "We have been working real hard for this presentation and once this is done, we can start preparing for the football season."
Now that Mifflin County is going to participate in cheering as a sport, Bender says that might change things somewhat in the future.
"It might affect what we do a little bit this year, but I see it having a greater effect next year," Bender explained. "This year the girls already had their tryouts before it was declared a sport and those girls already knew they were on the squad. Next year, our tryouts won't take place until August like every other sport."
Several ceremonial first pitches were thrown, one by The Sentinel's sports editor Jeff Fishbein, who represented the game's media sponsor. Obviously showing the crowd that he wasn't ready to take on a roster spot with the Spikes, Fishbein promptly bounced his pitch about 20 feet in front of home plate.
"I never was a pitcher," Fishbein explained while wearing a big smile. "I was an outfielder and that was a long time ago. Right now I don't even know if I could hit a cutoff man."
On the more serious side of things, Fishbein was quick to point out what it meant to him to represent The Sentinel, as well as Mifflin County, at the ball park.
"I think I am most impressed by looking around here and seeing people I see at work every day when I go out in the community and they all are having a good time together," he said. "When I see that, it just makes me really think about what living and working in Lewistown is all about. It is small town America where everybody knows everybody, they are all friends and that is really what coming to a Spikes game means to us."
After the ceremonial first pitches, players from Juniata County's Mifflin Little League and Mifflin County's Seven Mountains Sod team were honored as the "Field of Dream" players for the night.
"These kids are really excited to be here tonight and be a part of this," Brian Barlett, who was there with Seven Mountains, said. "I know my son could hardly wait to be here for this and I am sure the other kids were the same way. They are just having a blast."
The Mifflin County High School choir Cantare then presented a beautiful rendition of the national anthem.
During the seventh inning stretch, the cheerleaders were back in action, singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
The Huskies' field hockey team was the first team in the history of the school to win a district title when they captured the District 6 Class AAA crown last year, and it, too, was honored at the game.
"It was a great experience for the players because now they are going to be a part of history," coach Tish Maclay said. "They set the standard for all of the athletes and teams that follow them. It is something that nobody can ever take away from them."
As for bringing the athletes from the two previous schools together, Maclay said it was a very smooth transition.
"They were two very different programs, but the kids really came together," she said. "There weren't any issues, and with the merging of the two schools, all of the students just did a phenomenal job. They bought right into the Husky Pride idea and they really came together and made it a unique experience for everybody involved."
Taking in all of the Mifflin County festivities as well as the ballgame was high school principal Mark Crosson. Beaming at what was taking place, Crosson took a few minutes to express his feelings while watching all of the athletes strut their stuff prior to the game.
"This is very exciting for me," he said. "The students are here and that is what it is all about. They have been just incredible throughout the whole transition and really, they have been nothing short of amazing. I am extremely proud of all of them."
As for firsts, Crosson says he has seen all of them thus far with hopefully many more to come.
"Everything has been a first at Mifflin County High School," he said. "Personally, I think as time goes on, those firsts will take on even more meaning down the line. I think it is just incredible to be a part of something brand new while you build your own new traditions. The most important in all of this has been the kids and they have just been phenomenal."