Little League World Series Features Special Needs Teams From New Jersey and Texas

Photo: Little League World Series for Special Needs Teams

For many Little League baseball players, their big dreams can be played out on the field. And for the players of the Friendswood, Texas, Mustangs and the Cherry Hill, N.J., Challenger teams, their journey to the diamond, though different, is just as memorable.

"We got picked out of the whole country ... the world ... to play," said Daniel Vasquez, "because we are one of the best."

Twenty-four World Series players on two special-needs teams competed at the Challenger Game over the weekend. The team members all have a disability, such as muscular atrophy or attention deficit disorder. The game coincided with the Little League World Series on Sunday in which Japan beat Hawaii with a score of four to two.

"It gives you happiness to hit it at least once and just to catch the ball and feel great about yourself," said player Chris Zubrycki.

Even from the bleachers, the camaraderie among the players and their "buddies," or supportive friends and family members, was in evidence.

"These kids can do what other people can too," said "buddy" Chase White. "They just need a chance."

Chase Ruder, whose sister Ashley watched him play baseball for so many years, found seeing her in the dugout a nice turn of events.

"She never really gets to really go anywhere 'cause it's usually me," Ruder said. "It's just cool for her, because she loves playing baseball."

For coach Steve Silverman, the competition is as reciprocal as a game of catch.

"It's a two-way street," Silverman said. "It's not just what the kids learn, it's what the coaches and the adults and buddies learn."

'Smile ... Says It All'

With the coaches expressing how taken they were with their teams, ABC News asked the players what they thought of their coaches.

When questoned about how much she cared for her coach, Kayla Gray, 17, said, "Just a little bit," to great laughter from her team. "Ok, I do [like him]. I like all my coaches," she conceded.

Yet after every pitch thrown, each base hit, every high-five given, and behind every coach's cheer and parents' gaze, the game became more than just settling a score.

"The camaraderie that they have, and being able to feel that they are welcome and they are wanted and they're not outcasts," said parent Michael Potter. "Watching the smile on his face says it all."

And there were plenty of smiles on hand when highlights of the game were aired on TV, allowing these players to make their national debut.

"I might be like going over the top," said player Charlie Donegan, smiling. "But, kids might be asking us for autographs too."

Click here to return to the 'World News' page.

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