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Long Island Challengers Step Up To The Plate

Baseball is America’s pastime and should be enjoyed by everyone, including children with special needs.

That has been the thrust of Long Island Challenger Baseball since it was established in 1989 — to give physically and mentally challenged children from across the island the opportunity to play baseball in an environment structed to their abilities.

And Plainview was well represented at the Long Island Challenger Baseball Jamboree at John J. Burns Park in Massapequa Oct. 13 as the town’s Little League joined in fun along wtih Little Leagues and athletic associations throughout Long Island that annually participate in the Jamboree including East Meadow, Massapequa, Lindenhurst, Roslyn, Sachem and Merillon.

The league enables boys and girls with physical and mental challenges, ages 4-18, or up to age 22 if still enrolled in high school, to enjoy the game of baseball along with the millions of other children who participate in this sport worldwide. Today, more than 30,000 children participate in upwards of 900 Challenger Divisions worldwide. Teams are set up according to abilities, rather than age, and can include as many as 15-20 players. Challenger games can be played as tee ball games, coach pitch, player pitch, or a combination of the three.

Each Challenger baseball player took the field with a buddy, assisting the players on the field but also encouraging them to bat and make plays themselves.

“Challenger Baseball is a terrific program that enables children with special needs to enjoy all of the fun that comes with playing baseball,” said Supervisor John Venditto, who was on hand at the Jamboree. “There’s no question of our commitment to youngsters with special needs,” Venditto said. “We’re proud to host the Jamboree, but more importantly, we are proud of the youngsters who will participate. Their ability to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of their dreams is an inspiration to us all.”

The supervisor also said the field at Burns Park was specifically designed to accommodate special needs players.

“The Town of Oyster Bay created their first dedicated field at John J. Burns Park to meet the special needs of the players with features such as synthetic turf, which offers a stable, uniform and shock-absorbing playing surface. Since then, we have added two additional fields suitable for the Challenger Division,” he said. “The turf has the bases and pitcher’s mound marked on the surface and not raised. This enables safer and easier mobility for walkers and wheelchairs. In addition, the field has wider gate openings to accommodate wheelchairs, cement pads to facilitate access onto the field and nearby restroom access.”