Ohio Challenger Little League Tournament Brings Teams, Smiles From Across State

Will Jonsson (center) smiles during his turn at the plate. MIRROR PHOTOS BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER

BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — The sun wasn’t the only thing shining bright on Sunday at Rolf Park.

Dozens of smiling faces were on the baseball fields during the Ohio Challenger state baseball tournament, which ran eight games over both Saturday and Sunday.

“This becomes a place where they find out they can do stuff, they are able,” said Waterville resident and player mom Kristen Stamm. “Instead of constantly being in a world where they can’t, here they can.”

The Little League Challenger division is an adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges. It’s open to players ages 5-21. Score isn’t kept and both teams walk away winners.

Mike Stamm huddles with his Challenger Little League baseball team after their final game of the Ohio state tournament on Sunday, August 13 at Rolf Park.

 

The state tournament brought together 37 teams from all around Ohio, including six teams from Toledo – the Hound Dogs, Jaguars, Wheelers, Stars, Jets and Crushers. The Hound Dogs are coached by Kristen’s husband, Mike. Their daughter Cayman is on the team.

“Watching these kids improve in baseball skills is incredible,” Mike said. “If you would see these kids, they’re pretty reserved, but they come out here and win a championship like that, they’re so excited. It’s so rewarding to be out here.”

Kristen added, “It’s the highlight of their year. To them, this is the World Series.”

Mike talked about one of the team members who rides his daughter’s bus in the morning. He said the player doesn’t talk much and struggles to make eye contact.

“A lot of people would gloss over him,” Mike said. “You get him out here and he’s got a competitive spirit. He wants to win. Things you see in a typical kid and we give him the opportunity.”

The weekend didn’t include just baseball; Imagination Station in downtown Toledo hosted a dance for the players and families on Saturday night. A special needs dance group named iDance came in to “get the party started,” Mike said.

“It was fun watching these kids party,” he added.

Greater Toledo Challenger League teams play every Sunday evening at Rolf Park, with no cost, Mike added.

Other sponsors of the tournament included Meijer, Libbey Glass, Fraternal Order of Eagles, BJ’s Brew House, Maumee Rotary Club, Dairy Farmers of America, Niagara Bottling, Total Quality Logistics, Rudy’s Hot Dog, Assured Health Services, Canton Challenger Baseball, Tuscawaras County Challenger Baseball, Sam’s Club and NEO Challenger Baseball.

The Greater Toledo Challenger Little League will host its 13th annual “Fun”raising Golf Outing at Hidden Hills Golf Club on Sunday, September 30. Contact Stacee Shultz at (419) 360-0049 or Georgianna Lanning at (419) 308-2595 for more information.

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