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FARMINGTON — Baseball players from around the country warmed up their throwing arms on the streets of downtown this morning, tossing candy rather than fastballs and sliders.

Kicking off the 52nd annual Connie Mack World Series, teams paraded down Main Street in front of sidewalks filled with cheering fans. The crowd applauded all the squads, but parade-goers rooted especially hard for the hometown favorite, Strike Zone.

"We try and come out and show our support," Farmington resident Travis Ned said. "Those guys are a class act."

Made up of players from around the Four Corners region, Strike Zone recently won the Connie Mack City League championship, earning the opportunity to represent Farmington in the tournament. Head coach Adam Morrissey said participating in the parade can help energize a team.

"It always feels good to be back on the float," Morrissey said.

In addition to providing pre-game motivation, the event served another purpose for some players.

"It's a good way to check out the competition," Strike Zone right fielder Austin Ely said. "There's some big guys out there, but there's no other team I'd rather be with."

The event features teams from across the country and the Puerto Rico. An underdog in recent years, the island's MFP Arecibo squad rivaled Strike Zone in drawing applause from the crowd during the parade.

"You have to cheer for Puerto Rico," Jodie Marquez said. A resident of San Leandro, Calif., Marques said she has family in Farmington and comes to visit every year during the tournament.

"You can't come to Farmington without going to Connie Mack," she said. "It's a tradition."

The series serves as the championship for the amateur league named after longtime Major League Baseball manager and owner Connie Mack.The event has taken place here since 1965, after a group of businessmen successfully pitched the baseball-loving city as an ideal venue.

This year's tournament features 12 teams, some of which got a close look at their opponents this morning. Before the parade started, the Strike Zone float was parked parallel to that of the team's first-round foes, the Southern California Renegades.

"We didn't say anything to them," Ely said. "We'll battle it out on the field."

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606. 

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