DOVER (WJER) (July 29, 2022) – Hundreds of ballplayers and thousands of fans are expected at Dover City Park this weekend for the Challenger Baseball League State Tournament.
Event Coordinator Jennifer Flaherty says the league is for players of all ages with special needs and differences.
“We all play the field, we all bat, we don’t have any outs, and we don’t keep score,” she said. “We work a lot on socialization, making friends, following rules, and just building relationships.”
This Saturday and Sunday, 36 teams and about 375 players from across the state and even into Michigan will play games, but it’s as much of a celebration as a baseball tournament.
“If you go past Dover Park on Saturday or Friday when the big tents there, we usually have people stop and ask if we’re having a circus.
“It’s just so much fun, just to see the kids being able to interact with other kids, meet new friends, the smiles when they run across home plate or they see Slider and they give hugs. It’s just a wonderful feeling in your heart to be able to see that and for them to be able to be playing baseball like their typical peers.”
There are opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. Saturday, special guests including Slider from the Cleveland Guardians and the Akron Rubber Ducks mascot, free shirts and food for participants and their families, and a dance Saturday night with a Christmas in July theme.
Players bring their own fans, but community members are welcome.
“I always say if you’ve never been to a Challenger game, you’ve never seen baseball because our kids cheer for everybody. Our families cheer for everybody. For them to be independent and to be able to run and hit balls by themselves, that’s what they crave
and that’s what they want.
“We also have special equipment for everybody. We have a young lady who has some visual problems, so we have a ball that beeps so she can hit that ball. We also have bases that beep so she can run those bases independently.”
WJER’s Sports Talk show will broadcast live from the Challenger Tournament Saturday starting at 9 a.m.