As Little League parents go, Barbara Morrone’s experience was pretty typical. Back when all three of her sons played in the Cambrian Park Little League at the same time, it meant she spent a lot of time at the field. Like, all her time. “We were here every day. Literally every day,” Morrone said.
It was then she noticed someone else who was there every day: kids with disabilities unable to participate in the competition.
“The siblings of the players that had special needs were playing in the rocks or wriggling in the stands, bored. They wanted to play and they didn't have a team to play on,” said Morrone.
So, in 2010 Morrone created a team for them to play on. She created a Challenger Division team for the CPLL, made up of children with physical and intellectual disabilities. Since its first year, the team has grown in size (from five to 28) and is just about to reach a once-unthinkable milestone.
The CPLL Challenger team is going to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to play in the Little League World Series. They will be facing a Challenger Division team from Ohio in a one-inning exhibition match before the championship game. The Little League World Series began in 1947, but it’s now the sixth time that it will feature a Challenger Division Game.
Being granted an opportunity is something akin to winning the lottery. Challenger Divisions from all over the world, not just the U.S. send letters in and apply for the chance to be a part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The league is in the process of raising $80,000 to pay for a dozen players, coaches, and family members to attend.
“It's an amazing opportunity and it's every kid's dream to play at the World Series, every ballplayer's dream anyway. If I can afford 12 kids that opportunity I'm going to make it happen,” Morrone said.
Televised to the entire world, the Little League World Series is considered by many to be the pinnacle event of youth sports. Thousands of children from all corners of the world compete to make it to this promised land.
For some parents like Derek Maravilla, just watching his son Rilley lace up his cleats and dig into the diamond on any given Sunday is plenty to boast about but the World Series is something he will never forget.
“I never thought I would have the opportunity to watch him play baseball, but then to watch him play it on the biggest stage for Little League is going to be, I can't even put it into words,” said Maravilla.
Maravilla couldn’t be more grateful for Morrone and the opportunities she’s been able to create for Rilley.
After their second season with the program, Maravilla wrote Morrone a letter, “saying how I never thought that I'd be able to sit in the stands and watch my kid play baseball. It’s really a great amazing program that she and her family have created and that the Cambrian Park Little League has embraced, supported, and made it what it is today."