Top of the Morning, July 1, 2018

Top of the Morning, July 1, 2018

History was made on Wednesday night when C-U's predominantly African-American youth baseball league — First String — produced its first Twin City tournament champion. The league, comprised of a 12-and-under crowd from the Douglass Park neighborhood, will honor the kids and coaches at its annual — and always festive — cookout on Saturday in Champaign.

"There's a lot to celebrate," founder and current president Peter McFarland said. "It's been a long climb."

Started in '93, First String joined C-U Kiwanis Little League in '98. Always known for its concession stand, First String took longer to make an impact between the lines. But after two recent second-place finishes in the citywide Little League tourney, Illinois American Water broke through on Wednesday.

"Hopefully this will get other kids to believe in the league and want to come back and play," McFarland said, noting participation numbers have dropped in recent years. "'Hey, this is something I want to be a part of.'"

Today, Douglass Park's McFarland Field is a gem thanks to endless volunteer hours.

"My proudest moment," McFarland said, "is seeing more of the fathers get involved.

"We've made tremendous strides ... people aren't afraid to come to the park anymore, the kids are enjoying the game and having success. Seeing the smile on their faces makes it all worth it."

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