"All-Star" Game Makes Champions of Players With Special Needs

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The All-Star game for Major League Baseball® is still weeks away, but some little local all-stars already have theirs in the books. This game was only for a few select players.

Every swing of the bat in Wednesday’s game didn't count as a strike even if the batter missed.

"It's great to see them all having fun," said Vicki Spencer, watching from the bleachers at the El Pomar Youth Sports Complex in Colorado Springs Wednesday.

Every hit was a hit.

"We cheer for all of them,” Spencer said. “It doesn't matter what team they're on."

Spencer is a bona-fide Challenger Division fan. Two of her grand kids are in the Mets’ starting lineup.

"It's an opportunity for special needs kids to do what all the other kids get to do," she said.

The Challenger Division was added as a separate part of Little League Baseball 21 years ago. Players get the opportunity to leg-out a single, even those who can't use their legs. Many players are bound to wheelchairs.

It's well supervised fun for the kids and the kid at heart. Each of the players has a “buddy” on hand to help, but only if they really need it.

"We got a hitter over here,” yelled Bill Shanahan during the last inning Wednesday. “We got a hitter!"

Shanahan is a veteran assistant. Wearing his glove, he’s a solid backup at third base.

"This is easy. I love baseball anyway,” Shanahan said. “[The kids] make it even more fun.”

Fun, after all is the real name of the game, for the fans and the players.

"I like how everybody's playing and everybody wins," said Sadie Perkins.

In this “All-Star" game, there was no final score. Coaches said the contest was put together to make up for another game that had to be canceled earlier this season. The payoff was just to play, and everyone is an MVP.

"My favorite part is seeing the smiles on their faces," said Vicki Perkins.

The Challenger Division concludes the season Saturday, June 25, at the El Pomar fields.

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