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NAIA Teams Visit, Inspire Local Students

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Nine visiting teams in town for the Avista NAIA World Series were getting accustomed to what could be their home for the next week, but took the time to share their love of baseball with area students. It's hard to say who was more excited: McSorley students or the Southeastern student-athletes from Florida that dropped by Thursday. Either way, the Fire have some new fans.

"These kids look at us like we're professional baseball players," head coach Adrian Dinkle say. "Even for our guys it's cool because I mean, not very often do guys at our age get to just sign autographs."

There's nothing like hanging out with one of your heroes - even if you just met them twenty minutes ago.

The Southeastern Fire visited Lewiston's McSorley Elementary, just one of the schools around the region to get up close and personal with NAIA players. All ten teams, including the Warriors, were spread out between Lewiston, Clarkston, and even Lapwai. Honorary coach Dave Pankey of Regence is helping Southeastern Floridians adjust to Lewiston. "I'm trying to share a little bit of Idaho with them."

For the last 14 years, he's been proud to show off his hometown. "If it was done anywhere else it just wouldn't be the same."

Even outside of an elementary school, the welcome has been warm for the Fire. Southeastern head coach Adrian Dinkle has been to the series twice before as Sterling's coach, but this is a first for the SU program. "Obviously exciting any time you have the platform for our guys to represent our school. You can tell by the looks on their faces the excitement they've had."

A fierce game of kickball between players and students is relaxing compared to what awaits when the series kicks off Friday, but away teams will now have more fans in the stands.

Sixth grader Carson Kolb says, "You see some of them on the field and you're like, 'Oh wow. I know those people, I got to meet them.'" Ethan Hibbard adds, "And then you get to cheer them on."

Especially for a town full of T-ballers and little leaguers looking to someday play in a series of their own, it helps to have someone you can look up to.

Carson is a baseball player himself. "It inspires me a lot to do my best to end up being like them, or try to be like them someday."

The sixth graders also read a book about baseball called, "Soar" and wrote essays on character traits they related to from the story. The overall winner of the writing contest will throw out the first pitch on opening night of the series.

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