CHICAGO (WLS) --Chicago can finally celebrate a championship baseball team! Jackie Robinson West fans bought up official national championship T-shirts Tuesday as the city prepares for Wednesday's parade and rallies.
Signs are up around Jackie Robinson Park Tuesday night, and so are barricades along the parade route. Left fielder Prentiss Luster and his family came by to take it all in.
"Everybody's going to be excited, and it's going to be a fun time tomorrow. I'm just going to enjoy it," said Prentiss.
For Prentiss and his teammates, it was a day to catch up on small things, like getting a much-needed haircut after 25 days on the road.
WATCH Live Coverage of the JRW Parade, Rally on ABC7Chicago.com, starting at 9a.m. Wednesday
Thousands of eyes will be on the team Wednesday. Among the stops along the parade route is U.S. Cellular Field, where White Sox great Harold Baines and others will congratulate the national champs.
"These are our children, and that's why I'm so excited that the whole city came together to embrace kids from Morgan Park," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Bill Haley will be with the kids on Wednesday. His father, Joseph Haley, founded the league in 1971, and was the manager of the 1983 team that last made it to Williamsport. Bill Haley shared memories spanning four decades and spoke of this team's place in the league's history.
"What will always be special to me about this team is that they had that magical quality where they could endure," said Bill Haley.
It's that resilience that's touched so many hearts. On Tuesday, all 7,000 national championship T-shirts sold out in about six hours.
For Prentiss Luster, it's all still a bit overwhelming.
"It's going to be a lot of people filling around the streets, and it's going to be exciting and fun," said Prentiss.
On Wednesday, a citywide celebration starts with a rally at Jackie Robinson Park, where the kids play ball, and continues as the team parades to Millennium Park, where a second rally will be held at Pritzker Pavilion.
Parade, rally information
City crews were hard at work Tuesday - even in the rain - trimming trees next to Jackie Robinson Park at the start of the parade route. And a fresh layer of asphalt covers 107th street bordering the baseball fields. Neighbors are excited to see the area in the spotlight, especially for something so positive.
"The kids are going to encourage the other kids here in the Chicago area that need that encouragement. Now, because of the violence, these young men are going to bring something that other kids can say, this I can do, with a positive background," said Sharnell Henderson, neighbor.
The parade route will proceed from the park toward Halsted heading north from 105th all the way to 35th, then to Indiana, down 31st to Michigan Avenue all the way to Millennium Park. Business owners along the route - like Joy's Fish and Chicken at the corner of 95th and Halsted - are especially excited.
"It's wonderful. I'm so proud of them boys, I can't wait to see 'em. Oh, it's going to be beautiful. I'm going to be out here bright and early tomorrow morning, I can't wait," said Janice Cotrell, Joy's Fish and Chicken.
The rally and parade will be much longer than last summer's Blackhawks Stanley Cup celebration, but it will also bring the whole city together to celebrate the extraordinary achievement of these Little Leaguers. They arrived home Monday night to a hero's welcome.
JRW coach: love for team 'unreal'
The level of excitement for the South Side youth baseball team is one even some professional sports teams would envy.
"I'm the guy that does the T-shirt shopping. This is my fifth trip. Prior to them winning I'd ordered 74 shirts. Now that they won the order has gotten larger," Tracy Perkins said. Perkins bought 115 T-shirts for his coworkers at the CTA. They plan to wear them Wednesday.
"I have about 23 T-shirts I'm trying to sort out and make sure I got the right sizes for everyone," Pat Hampton said.
"I grew up with Jackie Robinson. I went to the games. I knew some of the players growing up. In this team, I know some of the players and parents. They did an awesome job and brought a proper light to this city that we call Chicago," Vera Edmerson said.
All proceeds from the T-shirt sales, and others that were sold earlier this month, directly benefit JRW. That's tens of thousands of dollars that will help the league make a significant investment in the future.