Field of Dreams: Let the Challenger Games Begin

President of Challenger League, Michael Bertrum, giving preliminary instructions

PARSIPPANY — The first day of May was welcomed in with beautiful weather, and the kickoff to this year’s Morris County Challenger Little League, a baseball league established for disabled children. It was nice to see the excitement on the faces of so many special needs athletes (Challengers) as they arrived at the Par-Troy West Little League Field in Parsippany, accompanied by equally excited “Buddy-Coaches.”  The “Buddy-Coaches,” are players, siblings, parents, or guardians of all ages, there to stand aside from the Challenger player, and when needed, function as their arms and legs, or provide whatever assistance is required. These resolute volunteer “buddy-coaches” provide these children with a positive and safe environment.

Pete Agostini, Christian Agostini, of Denville, with Parsippany-Troy Hills Council Vice President Loretta Gragnani.

It was great to see both the Parsippany Hills High School Baseball and Softball Teams, and Parsippany’s Little Viking Cheerleaders also come out to support his worthy effort. They would also be instrumental later in the afternoon when the more advanced Challengers players face off against a formidable opponent, the PHHS Baseball and Softball team for a special game with special rules. So far, the Challengers are undefeated.

Mayor Barberio, Ruben Fuentes, and Frank Neglia with PHHS Baseball and Softball Teams
Mayor Barberio, Ruben Fuentes, and Frank Neglia with Little Viking Cheerleaders.

But before that special game, the members of the Par-Troy Little League, and “buddy coaches,” assist Challenger players in an earlier game, which can prove extremely exciting for all involved. It was a busy afternoon. Most participants are from Morris County and a few from neighboring counties. The League does include quite a few Parsippany special needs residents. The age of participation is 5 years to 21 years old, but the 21-year-old must be attending a school to participate, and the program is split up between seventy players comprising 4 T-ball teams, and 2 Major teams. Of course, age and skill level are considered when comprising the teams.

PHHS Player Derek King, Michael Greenwaldt, of Randolph, and Coach Alan Louison of Florham Park

Par-Troy West Little League (PTWLL) President, and local council member, Frank Neglia oversees this program as well as the PTWLL, and shares an equal commitment to both. Despite being humble about his efforts, he clearly took immense pride in his part in this very worthy and noble cause. Neglia explained that the Challenger League was officially established in 1999, thanks to the efforts of Ruben Fuentes, a special needs individual himself, who was an active participant in helping to organize the day’s activities.

Michael Bertrum, President of the Challenger League was on the field coordinating and overseeing many of the activities, along with PHHS Baseball and Softball Coaches, Dan Olsen and Pete Anzelone, and Wayne Benvenuto, Manager of Athletics.

Local dignitaries who came out to support the Challengers included Mayor James R. Barberio and Council Member Loretta Gragnani.

For an application and/or more information on the Challengers Little League click here.

A great afternoon was had by all. And, by the way, the Challengers remain undefeated.

Ruben Fuentes gives instructions prior to the special game.
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