The 21st annual Challenger Baseball World Series was held on Saturday, June 14, at Frontier Field.
Big League dreams again became a reality for dozens of kids from across the Rochester area on Saturday, June 15, as the 21st annual Challenger Baseball World Series was played at Frontier Field.
Beginning in 1993, the Challenger Baseball World Series (CBWS) set out to offer boys and girls ages 6-18 who are physically and/or mentally challenged an opportunity to play the field, swing the bat and run the bases on a professional diamond while being cheered on by family and friends. With the assistance of hundreds of volunteers, 260 players from eight different teams around the area shared that experience this year as part of a quadruple-header.
The first game of the day began at 8:30 a.m. between the teams from Fairport and Greece. These two teams were part of the inaugural CBWS in 1993 at Silver Stadium, during which 62 players participated. The 260 players involved in this year’s event pushed the 21-year total to over 3,600 participants.
The 9:30 a.m. game featured the teams from Pittsford and Penfield, both of which first appeared in the CBWS in 2010. As many Challenger Baseball teams, Penfield got its squad off and running with the help from someone involved with another program. In Penfield’s case it was Webster’s Ron Kampff who helped show them the way.
“Since helping the Penfield program get going four years ago we have maintained a great relationship with everyone over there,” said Kampff, who heads the largest team in the CBWS. “The last game of our season is a big game where we also hold a big picnic for players, families and volunteers. It is a great day, with over 80 kids last year.”
The Webster Minor League team took the field for the third game, facing off against Westside team at 10:30 a.m. Webster’s Challenger team first took the field in 2001 while the Westside team - made up of players from Brockport, Kendall and Churchville-Chili, among other towns - began in 2011.
“We have 42 players from towns all over the west side of the city,” said Jack Milner, who helped get the Westside team get going three years ago after participating with the Greece team for a number of years. “When we started we didn’t have much funding but the support from the families and the area businesses and organizations has been tremendous, and is the only reason we are able to provide what we do.”
The final game of the day came between the team from Victor and the team from the Finger Lakes. The Finger Lakes squad first took the field in the CBWS in 1997 while Victor first participated in 2011.
“We have 13 players on our roster, with eight making it out today,” said Ray Sullivan, who is in his first year as the Victor coach. “That number has doubled since last year and we are always looking to add more. It is a great way to start the summer.”
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The Challenger Baseball teams host a series of practices and games over June and July on their home fields, with the services provided free to all players and families thanks to generous donations from numerous community members and businesses. The opportunity to get between the lines on the pro field something everyone looks forward to each year: players, volunteers and coaches alike.
“It is great to see so many smiles on the kids faces,” said Torrie Luciano, who along with four of her Reliant co-workers volunteered their time for the event.
“These have been some of the best times of my life, spending summers with these kids,” added Kampff.
The 2013 Challenger Baseball World Series was played in memory of Bryson Sparrin, a former member of the Webster team who recently passed away at the age of seven.