The Wyoming Valley Challengers first season game

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — After a year of waiting, the Wyoming Valley Challengers, a Little League team for individuals with special needs, finally got to play.

This season is even more special because the team is playing in a field made just for them.

“You get to play ball?” Eyewitness News reporter Revathi Janaswamy asks player Austin Dyer.

“Yes,” Austin said.

Revathi: “Are you excited?”

“Yes,” Austin said.

“The team started in the 1970s, it’s part of the Little League’s special needs challenger division. And for the longest time we did not have a field of our own. We would play on other fields,” Wyoming Valley Challengers communications director Dr. Stephen Cheskiewicz said.

Two years ago, the city of Wilkes-Barre leased Evercor Field to the team. It went through some renovations to make the field special needs-friendly. The road just outside the field was paved, the gates were made bigger and the bathroom doors were made larger.

“Also the dugouts used to go down those steps. So we actually had to raise that up so it was flat for wheelchairs. So it took a lot of extra money and support to put these ADA compliance features in the field,” Dr. Cheskiewicz said.

The team finally got their own field last year. But due to the pandemic, all but one game had to be canceled.

“It’s hard with these kids because there’s really not much for them to do in the area in team sports and stuff,” Heather Dapkins, Austin’s mother, said.

Now the players are excited to be back.

“I get to play with my team again,” Michael Cheskiewicz of Dallas said.

“I have fun with my friends. And my friends and I have fun with my team,” Challenger player James Scholten said.

Parents say playing on the team also teaches the kids life skills.

“In schools and stuff they really don’t have the opportunity to have team sports and this teaches them to work well with other kids, that the team counts on them so they have a responsibility to be there with the team,” Dapkins said.

You can catch the Wyoming Valley Challengers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. For the Challengers’ full schedule, visit wvcbaseball.com.

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