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East Palestine little league baseball players recognized at Cleveland Guardians home opener

The youngsters were given the chance to be part of the 'player tunnel' for the Cleveland Guardians.

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — With everything happening in East Palestine since the toxic train derailment that captured national headlines, the kids in that community have really been going through a lot.

So, the Cleveland Guardians made sure the little leaguers could experience something special during the home opener on Friday.

When life throws you a curveball, it's helpful to be backed up by a team. In this case, a whole bunch of East Palestine little leaguers.

They got each other through the past two months, following a devastating train derailment that involuntarily thrust their small town in the national spotlight.

Now it's their turn to let loose and have a little fun with an invitation to opening day at Progressive Field where the little leaguers were tasked with forming the “player tunnel.”

“I don’t know how many kids have experienced an opening day, but for the kids to be able to form a tunnel while the players come out, it’s something they’ll never forget,” says John Simon, President of the East Palestine Youth Sports Association.

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Between eating hot dogs and battling it out to see who can catch the fly ball, it's a world away from the unknown of the Feb. 3 train derailment.

“They were out of school for a week when the derailment happened and they didn’t really know if there’d be a season,” Simon said. “We were concerned about that, we were concerned about some kids be relocated and moved away.”

Now, they're two weeks away from their very own opening day, something Simon is gearing his team up for with lessons that go far beyond running bases.

“You learn a lot more than just the sport when you’re playing,” he said. “You learn how to be a great teammate. You learn how to be a great leader.”

Simon also has a message for other baseball teams that get the chance to play against East Palestine this year.

“You know East Palestine is doing its best to provide for these kids, so I’m hoping the other communities will come here and play and not have any issues coming to our park.”

Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous story on April 4, 2023.

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