Christy Gray remembers in the late 70's and 80's how Mountain Park Baseball and Softball used to celebrate its opening day.
Gray, who is the director of softball, went to Chris Whitlock and Scott Waller and the association decided to bring back the old tradition for opening day.
Saturday started with a parade at 9:30 a.m. and ended with games from 10:30 a.m. until well into the day. All of the teams were in the parade, along with vendors from Lilburn.
"It was fun when I was kid so it's fun now," Gray said. "When we did our parades we started on East Park Place drove trucks with kids in the back all the way down Rockbridge, turned on Five Forks and ended up at the park. It might've been a liability issue, lack of organization. I don't know why but when we came back and I have children of my own now it seemed like a fun idea."
The association experimented in the fall and knew it would be able to do a better job in the spring. "It was a little less organized and this year it seems like it's gone off without a hitch," Gray said. "We have a good turnout and they have gone and had a good time at the parade and now they can have a good time with our vendors and activities out on the field."
Gray gave a lot of credit to many people for making opening day a huge success. "My entire softball board, if it weren't for them this wouldn't have gotten done," Gray said. "My cohort, Scott Waller, he's done a lot of the leg work getting some of the vendors here making sure that we were able to provide this at little to no cost."
She also credited the vendors who made donations. "That's what paid for the fun inflatables," Gray said. Some of the vendors included Nationwide Insurance, Big Frog, Mt. Caramel, Mountain Park First Baptist, Gwinnett Braves, Parkview Diamond Club, Three Blind Mice, Incredible Inflatables and Booster-A-Thon "Jamie Row and Jim Ward all helped with the fields," she said. "It's a team effort."
Softball has 24 teams, including travel ball, and some of the other parks from around Gwinnett County actually come here to play as well. Baseball has 60 teams and 10 more travel teams. The association has over 1,000 kids participating.
Ages 3 years up to 18 years all are eligible to participate. "It was really great to see the oldest generation touch the youngest generation," Gray said.
Stacy Dixon-Dotson, a pitching trainer from Elite Sports Training Academy, was out to assist some of the softball players Saturday. Dotson has 9-year-old triplets who play in the association.
"We definitely have our hands full. My husband, Dennis, and I run the facility," Dotson said. "I grew up in the area. It's been a wonderful program. I want to give back to the kids to help them progress from the rec level all the way up to the collegiate level and help them achieve a college scholarship."
Waller echoed the sentiment of Gray. "It is a lot of fun," Waller said. "We want it to be a family-oriented event for the community of Lilburn. We wanted to just have a good time and tell everybody we appreciated them playing at our park."
Waller was excited to have Parkview High School's baseball team assist. "We're very thrilled to have [Parkview baseball coach] Chan [Brown] and the whole team here," Waller said. "They came out today. They are always supporting us. It's good to have the high school involved. The kids are thrilled to have the high school team here. It's great experience for the little ones."
Waller says that this Association gives the players who don't make the varsity teams a chance to play. "We want to provide for them too," he said. "They have an opportunity to play here and we'd love to have them."
Chris Whitlock, the Mountain Park Association president, was thrilled with the event.
"We're trying to give something back to the community," Whitlock said. "And just to celebrate opening day for both baseball and softball. We're just trying to get the parade back. We thought it would be a good idea to start it up again. We've had so many volunteers step up to help us out, participate and help organize this thing. There are about 1,000 kids out here today with family and friends. So many volunteers that help make this a great success."
Whitlock also credited commissioners, coaches and vendors. "Everybody has been out here pitching in, helping. It is truly a community park," Whitlock said. "It is run by the community. We don't get paid. We're out here to run a program for the kids. We're trying to grow the program as much as possible. We'd rather have them out here participating in athletics than at home or hanging out with the wrong crowd."
Greg Cable and Robert Youngblood, parents of kids in the program, both felt the park and their staff were great for the community. "It's fantastic," Cable said. "We've gotten away from the family-oriented organizations and that's one of things we're trying to bring back to the park. Parents and kids, everyone comes out and enjoys themselves. It's all for the kids so they can come out and whoop it up and have a great day."
Youngblood also felt that it was a great organization. "The whole place has a very community feel to it," said Youngblood. "It's always been that way. Everybody comes out especially when the weather gets good."