Freedom Classic means baseball, big business this weekend in Kinston

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KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – It’s time to play ball at Grainger Stadium this weekend as organizers host the 11th Freedom Classic baseball competition.

Fans are returning to the stands in Kinston after two years. 2020’s competition was canceled due to weather conditions.

Organizers have made it as safe as possible so everyone can enjoy some baseball this year. Signs are in place to make fans aware of requirements for social distancing, wearing masks and using hand sanitizers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of fans at the stands have been limited to meet state rules. This weekend, the Air Force will play against Army instead of Navy — a first for the event. Lenoir County native Connor Bright will be pitching for the Air Force Academy in this weekend’s game.

Organizers said other events they’ve managed in the last few months geared them up for this weekend.

“With how COVID has been, everybody is excited … we were nervous about it, but we’re so glad we’re able to have it again this year,” said Josh Bass with Lenoir County Park and Recreation.

Becky Whittington, owner of Just Add Salt Boutique, agrees about the fun they’re expecting to have this weekend.

“They’re just lots of fun. It’s a great way to show patriotism, and it’s a great benefit to our community to have them here,” Whittington said.

Businesses like Whittington’s are seeing more people in downtown Kinston this weekend. Organizers told 9OYS some hotels are booked solid with people here for the event. They say revenue from this event gives businesses a boost after one year of the pandemic.

The first game started Friday at 5 p.m. at Grainger Stadium. Gates open Saturday at noon, and the game begins at 2 p.m. with a military flyover. The last game is at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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