Special needs baseball league draws crowd ahead of World Series appearance

CAMP HILL, Pa. (WHTM) – There’s an old saying in youth sports: You don’t play to win, you play to have fun.

A group of little leaguers who embody that message got together Sunday.

Eighteen years ago, Camp Hill Little League started a separate program for kids whose needs might prevent them from playing on other teams. This year, the Challenger League is going big time.

Crowds of supporters including a high school marching band turned out over the weekend to provide a little pomp for a special circumstance.

“It’s great they have the band with the kids coming in,” Larry Kostelac said.

“It’s really heartwarming,” added Jane Ulitchney. “I didn’t know it was going to be this big.”

“It’s exciting!” team coordinator Melonie Hinton said excitedly. “This is everything. This is the big day.”

This is Challenger Day.

“There’s something for everybody and these kids are just amazing,” Wayne Delafield said.

“We get to get excited for our kids even more than usual,” Hinton said with a laugh. “It’s just wonderful.”

The league for kids and young adults with special needs drew a special audience on their annual community day — one that doesn’t care about the score, just the kids, like Beth Rementer’s.

“They get to come out and they get to play and hit the ball and everybody cheers everybody on,” Rementer said.

Her twin sons Jimmy and Ryan are in the third year of their careers.

“I don’t know if they would have this kind of opportunity otherwise with other little leagues,” she said. “And especially this year because we’re going to the Little League World Series, it’s extra special for us.”

In August, 15 players from Camp Hill will take on a team from Colorado before the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

Through donations, every player and family get to go to the World Series game for free.

“I’m an alternate,” player Sebastian Delafield said, “and it’s just an honor just to be there on the same field as Red Land.”

On this field, though, that comes second. The love of the game, that hits home.

“I just can’t tell you how much it means to us and all of our kids to have everybody come out here and show that they care about our kids,” Hinton said, choking up. “It’s wonderful.”

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