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Challenger baseball game a success

Courtesy Connecting Horizons

Kahnawa’kehró:non of all ages and abilities got the chance to compete in the Challenger baseball game held Saturday at the hospital baseball field. It was a hectic few weeks getting everything prepared for the third annual game, said Iris Phillips of Connecting Horizons, which organized the event.  But it was all worth it to see the smiles from the players who joined in. 

“It’s an amazing feeling you get putting on this type of event and seeing the fruits of your labour,” she said. “It was a big sigh of relief when the first pitch was thrown by Ricky Leclaire.”

Upwards of 20 athletes with special needs partook in the game, which included three innings. Each also left with a medal. Players from as young as six to as old as 70 got the chance to compete, with those in wheelchairs pushed along by eager volunteers.

“It’s about including everyone,” said Kylene Standup, who volunteered on behalf of Kahnawake Minor Baseball (KMB).

“Everybody gets a medal for participation, and they wear it so proudly and you see them on the street,” she said. “Their faces are so lit up and they’re so excited about it – and that’s why we do it.”

The coaching staff from the Kahnawake Mixed Softball League (KMSL) also helped, with coaches there to lead warmups and explain the rules of the game.

“We’re so happy that more parents of the players came out,” said Ryan Montour, a baseball player in the league and Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) chief. “It was awesome. It’s just so uplifting to see the smiles on their faces.”

Fans were given noisemakers and posters as a DJ and announcer from K1037, Dennis Stacey, kept everybody on track and entertained. Hotdogs, popcorn, and snow cones were also given out for free.

“We gave away about 140 hotdogs,” said Montour, who said the turnout was incredible. “They started lining up at 11 o’clock.” 

He said the highlight of the game for him was getting to watch Madden Diabo, who turned out for his third time in a row to participate. Each time he would make a hit, he would immediately look to his family in the stands and raise his hands to celebrate. And when he made a home run, he ran to his family right away when he touched home plate.

For Phillips, the best part was the hugs. 

“I got a hug from an aunt who has an autistic niece, and it was her first time playing,” she said. “She actually said this is the first time I’ve seen her participating in such an event, and getting out of her shell. It was amazing.”

Connecting Horizons will host another season closer Challenger game on September 7 that’s expected to be held at the Sports Complex field.

miriam@easterndoor.com

This article was originally published in print on June 7, in issue 33.23 of The Eastern Door.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.