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In Fullerton, the Titans Are King

Times Staff Writer

From the bottom of the dog pile to the top of the world.

Days earlier in Omaha, infielder Neil Walton was squished and mashed in a joyous heap of teammates after his Cal State Fullerton baseball team won the 2004 College World Series.

On Tuesday, Walton was awestruck as he and his teammates paraded triumphantly down Harbor Boulevard aboard a firetruck -- kings of Fullerton and national champions.

“I just kept thinking this happens to other people and not me,” he said.

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On an afternoon so glorious that staying indoors would have been criminal, hundreds of cheering fans dressed in black and orange screamed, yelled, waved banners -- some cried -- for a celebration of Titans baseball in downtown Fullerton.

The Titans were 15-16 near midseason but won 32 of their last 38 games. On Sunday, the team defeated the top-seeded University of Texas, 3-2, to capture the school’s fourth national baseball championship and the first since 1995.

Shop owners stopped business to peek out onto Harbor Boulevard, and Commonwealth and Wilshire avenues, where the half-mile parade took place.

“It’s wonderful, very Fullerton,” said Wade Zylstra, owner of a hair salon along the parade route.

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Drivers who were caught on blocked streets waited patiently as the parade passed.

“It’s very spirited” of the community to have the parade, said Cal State Fullerton student Tera Rice, waiting in her Honda Element as police held up traffic on Harbor Boulevard. “I’m a big fan of the baseball team.”

Then there were the cheerleaders from local high schools, who provided extra pep.

“It’s about time Fullerton was represented,” said Fullerton High cheerleader Meshell Maes. When asked if they’d taken a liking to any of the baseball players, members of the varsity cheerleading squad started yelling out jersey numbers: “25! 49! 9! 22! 34!”

Krystyn Gonzales, 17, interjected: “All of them are cute.”

On a corner of Wilshire and Harbor, a shower of confetti covered players and parade-goers. Streams of ticker tape -- well, toilet paper -- flew out of second-story windows.

Titan head coach George Horton, in a convertible with his family, waved as fans cheered on.

“Look at it; it’s overwhelming,” he said. “It couldn’t be any more perfect. It is as good as it gets. This is a great, fitting [tribute] for my warriors, who poured their heart and soul” into the series.

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At the end of the parade route, more than 500 people gathered for a rally at Fullerton Downtown Plaza.

Mayor Mike Clesceri presented the team with a key to the city. Fans praised the team’s no-quit attitude. Someone from the back of the crowd yelled out, “We messed with Texas!” Players looked on, cameras and video recorders in hand, soaking in their moment of glory.

“This hasn’t sunk in, no way,” said pitcher Jason Windsor, named most outstanding player of the series. “It’s a great feeling knowing people in our own community who support us.”


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