Garrett Fransen and Caleb Roller were obviously excited as they waited near the third base line before the Jamestown Jammers New York-Penn League game at Diethrick Park on Friday night.
And why wouldn't they be? After all, what children, especially a pair of little leaguers, don't dream of getting the chance to throw out the first pitch at a professional baseball game?
But while their experience on Friday was certainly memorable, here's guessing that fond memory will come in a distant second to the one they'll undoubtedly be making in the week ahead.
The Jamestown Area Soap Box Derby champions, Caleb Roller in the Super Stock Division, left, and Garrett Fransen in the Stock Division, will be participating in the All-American Soap Box Derby on Saturday. But before they headed the Akron, Ohio, they threw the first pitches at the Jamestown Jammers game on Friday night. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Reagle
Fransen, 13, and Roller, 11, you see, are, as of this writing, on the road to Akron, Ohio, to take part in what's often billed as the "greatest amateur racing event in the world" - the All-American Soap Box Derby.
This is the first time either have qualified for the event.
"It's going to be crazy," Fransen said.
"Exciting," added Roller.
That excitement should only grow when the pair, who are traveling with their families, arrive in Akron. Garrett and his family left on Saturday while Caleb and his family, which includes his father, Al, and grandfather, both of whom have competed in the derby in years past, depart today.
Now in its 76th year, this edition of the All-American Soap Box Derby will feature more than 400 competitors from across the United States. But this isn't just a national race. No, it truly is the "world championship" of soap box racing as competitors will also be making the trip to Ohio from Canada, Japan and New Zealand, just to name a few.
The event typically draws a crowd of more than 15,000 spectators.
Caleb, who noted that he "came out of retirement" to race this year (he hadn't raced since 2010), earned his place in the event by virtue of a first-place finish in the Super Stock Division (for racers ages 10-17 of more experience) in the Jamestown Area Soap Box Derby at the John S. Sinatra Memorial Soap Box Derby Track back in early June.
The victory, he added, came by the slimmest of margins.
"I won three races and in the championship I won it by 0.001 seconds."
Garrett, meanwhile, had an easier time in his races at the Stock Division level - which is for younger racers between the ages of 7 and 13.
"In my championship I smeared 'em," he said with a smile. "I got them good."
And they're both hoping the victories keep coming this week; to win at "Derby Downs" is, after all, their goal.
"I want to win at least one race," Garrett said with Caleb quickly agreeing.
The two will get their first look at the storied, 954-foot track when they arrive, but will have to wait a few extra days before then can get their cars on the track.
The festivities begin, however, on Monday with a parade of champions and an opening ceremony, then comes the inspections of their cars on Tuesday and finally trial runs on Wednesday.
The actual racing begins bright and early on Saturday morning - 8:30 p.m. sharp. By 4 p.m., winners of the pinnacle soap box derby event in the world will have been decided.
For those interested in keeping up with how the pair fair in Akron, there is a free iphone app called "RaceTracker," that can be used to track drives, heats, times, etc.
A live webcast will also be available at the All-American Soap Box Derby website: www.aasbd.org.