Illinois Little League Challenger team to play in World Series 2013

August 18, 2013 10:04:59 AM PDT
For the first time, a special needs baseball team from Illinois is heading to the "Challenger" Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn.

Players and their buddies from the northwest suburbs will be playing a team from the San Francisco area next weekend. They are the only two teams selected from more than 900 Challenger teams to play in the 2013 World Series.

Fifteen players and 15 buddies are training hard for the upcoming series.

"The team is actually a combination between three different Little League," said Mark Johnson, the team manager. "'Each player is assigned a buddy and the buddy's role is to help them throughout the game. It's everything to teaching them how to throw, teaching them how to hit. If they need help running to first base, they assist."

Players on the team have varies disabilities

"It's disabilities that would normally prevent them from being a part of a Little League experience. So, some of these kids have been excluded for some reason, some medical reason," said Johnson.

" What is wonderful about this whole experience is because it gives these kids the opportunity to play ,and it's not about how fast they throw the baseball or how fast they run, its about what's inside and how hard they can try," Johnson said.

Zachery Donahue, 16, is a buddy to his 10-year-old brother, Jacob. This is their second year in the league.

"I like it a lot. It is fun," said Zachery.

To qualify for the World Series, teams have to apply.

"And we're picked because of the qualifications and the great things we were doing in the community," Johnson said. "It's truly an honor. It's a once-of-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids."

The winners do not get trophies.

"They play for flags, and every team wins a flag, and each kid gets a participation pen," said Johnson.

Good luck to the 30 players and their buddies along with the coaches and family members who are heading out east later this week.

For more information go to www.littleleague.org/page59136.aspx.


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