The caravan turned left onto turn on North Diamond Street, and immediately the West York baseball players found themselves surrounded by the community that, for a few weeks last month, had followed them all over the state.
A trio of police cruisers led the parade route, while a group of cheerleaders and the high school's marching band followed close behind. The latter belted out the West York fight song.
Three more West York Fire Department trucks bought up the rear of the procession.
And all along the sidewalks, family and fans gathered to cheer and snap photos.
Seated on the back of a white, flatbed truck, the Bulldogs players took it all in. It has been nearly a month since West York won its first state title in program history, beating Lampeter-Strasburg, 9-6, in the Class AAA title game in State College on June 15. In some ways, those players said, the weeks since have rolled together into one, never-ending celebration.
It culminated Thursday evening, with a mile-long parade through the borough followed by a ceremony in the West York Area High School gym.
"It seems like yesterday," Bulldogs star pitcher Kaden Hepler said of the state final. "It's crazy to think that a month later we still have all these people showing up. To have them behind us means the world."
For Hepler and his teammates, it was a chance to commemorate their accomplishment with the community that had supported them. Many of the people who lined the streets Thursday also had trailed West York to far-off ballparks during its historic run -- including three trips to Altoona during the state playoffs.
But the Bulldogs' state championship also captured the interest of casual fans. Hepler recalled a dinner with his family at Ruby Tuesday's, a night after the team's state title victory. A father and son came up to Hepler mid-meal, placed a baseball on the table and asked the Winthrop University recruit to sign it.
Jesse Bortner, the team's catcher, had a similar story. He was stopped at a traffic light on Route 30, when a couple pulled up next to him. They had noticed the words scrawled on the back windshield of Bortner's white, Chevy Prizm -- "West York State Champs" -- and wanted to ask him about the team.
"I get stuff everywhere I go," Bortner said.
Thursday was more of the same. On Filbert Street, residents sat on their stoops and waved as the West York players passed.
"I'm just thinking 'My gosh, there's more people,'" West York coach Roger Czerwinski said.
After the parade, the players and fans filed into West York's gym, where state Reps. Eugene DePasquale and Seth Grove presented each player and coach with a citation from the state House of Representatives.
Later, the entire crowd gave a standing ovation to Czerwinski, the third-year coach who has propelled the Bulldogs to new heights.
"This is the West York way," Czerwinski said of the support the team has received. "You do things the right way and you develop the kids the right way, and they're going to accept you with open arms.
"It's just special. It's a special place."
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