Mouths hung open in awe and eyes were wide as saucers as dozens of south county kids paraded on the AT&T Park field before Sunday afternoon’s San Francisco Giants game.

Mouths hung open in awe and eyes were wide as saucers as dozens of south county kids paraded on the AT&T Park field before Sunday afternoon’s San Francisco Giants game.

“It was a great experience,” said Mike Rodriguez, the Mount Shasta Junior Giants league commissioner. “Some kids have never been there before and were just amazed, and being on the field was really special.”

Before the game – which the Giants won 2-1 – Junior Giants teams from northern California, Oregon and Nevada paraded on the field, and Mount Shasta’s Cameron DeBortoli, age 11, was presented with the Willie Mac award.

Mount Shasta Junior Giants program coordinator and Sisson School teacher Garren Hanon was a ball boy during Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. He sat next to the Giants dugout and bullpen and fetched foul balls.

As closing pitcher Brian Wilson warmed up in the 8th inning, Hanon was just a few feet away.

Cameron DeBortoli’s mother, Karen, said her son got to meet Giants legend and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey near home plate and shook his hand. In September, Cameron is invited to a luncheon with McCovey and other award winners who were nominated for exemplifying the Junior Giants’ ideals.

Mount Shasta coach Rich Hester will be honored for his volunteer efforts during a Giants game sometime at the end of August, Rodriguez said.

Now in its 16th year, the Mount Shasta Junior Giants program doubled enrollment in 2011, Rodriguez said. Upwards of 135 south Siskiyou kids gather at the Little League park every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for fun practices and non-competitive games. The program is free to  boys and girls ages 5 to 13.

“The intent of the program is to bring the fun of baseball to children without the competition,” Rodriguez explained.

Players learn the fundamentals of baseball and four bases of character development, including integrity, confidence, teamwork and sportsmanship and participate in programs including reading, health and violence prevention.

“Over the years, the Giants have provided all the equipment – bats, balls, helmets, pitching machine, shirts and hats,” Rodriguez said. “They’re very generous and we’re really appreciative.”

Each year the Giants also provide tickets to a game in San Francisco. This year, Rodriguez said they were planning to send 40, but ended up providing 100 tickets for Junior Giants players and their families to enjoy Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Not everyone was able to go, and the 100 tickets turned out to be just enough, Rodriguez added.

Sixteen years ago, Rodriguez said he was invited to check out the program on behalf of the Mount Shasta Parks and Recreation District. Already an avid Giants fan, Rodriguez liked what he saw and soon began the program’s northernmost league in California.

Some 17,000 children participate in the program in 85 leagues.

For more about the Giants game, see Skye Kinkade’s Skyelines blog entry, "Fear the Beard."