For two days, members of the Fairfield American Little League team have been treated like rock stars.
The New England regional champions were greeted Wednesday evening by thousands who lined a 1.6-mile parade route in the rain to watch them pass through downtown Williamsport, Pa., on a float.
Thursday morning, Fairfield was cheered at the World Series opening ceremonies at Volunteer Stadium.
As the 16 World Series teams -- from as far away as Uganda and Taiwan -- were introduced, "It's a Small World" blared over the public address system. Each squad carried its regional championship banner and balloons.
Williamsport mayor David Lechniak addressed the crowd, citing the importance of family.
"I want to congratulate the family and friends of the teams," Lechniak said. "Without you, these fine athletes would not be here today."
Living at the U.N.
With eight foreign teams in the tournament, crossing cultures might be difficult for some, but not for Fairfield American. It's living quarters have been a veritable United Nations.
Players have interacted with dozens of kids from overseas.
"They took pictures with the team from Japan, the team from Uganda and Mexico," American manager Bill Meury said.
"They're playing ping pong every night," Meury said. "The president of the Little League said everyone here's a winner, and I completely agree with that."
Rain no obstacle
Being rained on at the Grand Slam Parade did little to dampen Meury and Fairfield American's spirits, mostly because of the energy the thousands of spectators brought and sustained.
"Despite the fact that it was pouring, all these people stayed in the rain," Meury said. "And it didn't look like they were going anywhere. They didn't even have umbrellas."
Some parents believed the rain actually enhanced the team's enthusiasm.
Alli Lucas -- wife of assistant coach John Lucas and mother of shortstop Will -- admitted it wasn't Will's first time in a parade, but it was the biggest parade her 13-year-old son's been in.
"He's marched in Fairfield's Memorial Day parade before," Alli said. "But that's nothing like this."
U.S. Bracket opener
For the second time in three years, Fairfield American played in the first United States game at the Little League World Series.
But Meury was not concerned about nerves for his club in its opening World Series game at Lamade Stadium.
"They're a pretty composed bunch of kids," he said. "I think they're going to be OK."
Meury cited the club's practice at adjacent Volunteer Stadium as a dress-rehearsal to the main event, although it was missing just one element.
"There weren't any fans in the stands," he said.
Meury did admit that if Fairfield was nervous, it was only natural.
"I think every player that goes out there is going to be a little bit nervous," Meury said. "I think Derek Jeter is nervous when he takes the field for the World Series at Yankee Stadium, and I think that this is the same type of event for these guys."
Missing her men
Alli Lucas is rooting hard for Fairfield, but that does not mean she hasn't missed being with her husband and son.
"I miss them terribly," she said. "But they've worked so hard and dreamed about this for four years. It's a big thrill for me."
After being sequestered from their parents for nine days in Bristol, Fairfield American left straight from the Giamatti Little League complex to Williamsport Sunday morning. Fairfield's parents and fans did not depart for Williamsport until Wednesday.
The parents and kids finally did catch up at Lamade Stadium Wednesday night after the parade.
Boggs grand marshal
Former Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs was the grand marshal of both Wednesday's Grand Slam Parade and Thursday's Grand Slam Kick-Off Breakfast, which took place at the Genetti Hotel, where many fans are staying.
The 12-time all-star was given a strong ovation from fans of both Fairfield and Parsippany, N.J., when he was introduced as "a member of the 1996 World Series champion New York Yankees."
Boggs is a former Little Leaguer, having played for Bayshore Little League in Tampa, Fla.