Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Host Sixth Annual Little League Orange County Challenger Classic
More than 40 Little League Challenger Division teams gathered at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, to participate in the Sixth Annual Bank of America Orange County Little League Challenger Division Classic.
All teams participating were from Southern California and represented Districts 19, 29, 30, 38, 46, 55, 56, 62, 68, 71 and 72. Organized into four sessions with 10 teams playing per session, each team played one two-inning game on the outfield grass at the stadium. Players were assisted by buddies from their leagues as parents, family, and friends cheered them on from the stands.
“The games gave hundreds of children and their families an opportunity to enjoy an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime,” Sam Ranck, Director of the Challenger Division, said. “The opportunity to play baseball at a Major League stadium is a dream of millions of children across the country. This dream could not have been realized for these children today without the cooperative effort of many local Challenger Division volunteers in Orange County as well as the support of the Los Angeles Angels and Bank of America.”
One of the highlights of the day was the appearance of the 2011 Little League Baseball World Series Champions from Huntington Beach, Calif. The Ocean View Little Leaguers led the participants as they recited the Little League Pledge. The team also volunteered as “buddies” for the Challenger teams from their home district (California District 62).
Dr. Darrell Burnett, Assistant Director of the Challenger Division in Districts 55 and 68, and member of the International Little League Board of Directors, was the Challenger Liaison for the Challenger Classic.
“I noticed tears in one the Challenger player’s eyes as we entered the field through the leftfield tunnel today,” Dr. Burnett said. “I asked him if he was OK. He said, ‘Coach, these are happy tears. This is one of the best days of my life!’
“These special needs kids were so excited about playing on the same field where the pros play,” Dr. Burnett said. “The Challenger Classic event is something special. What you saw out there was Challenger baseball at its finest. Lots of joy, lots of effort, and no talk of statistics. It’s what pure youth sports is all about. Bank of America and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim should be very, very proud. They gave some very special kids a very special experience.”
Former Angel players Jim Abbott, Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, Rex Hudler, Scott Lewis, Matt Luke, and Clyde Wright roamed the field, pitching to the players, posing for photos, and signing autographs. Jim Abbott gave a moving and inspirational speech to the players about overcoming obstacles.
At the conclusion of each game, every player was awarded a medal for their participation.
For more information on starting a Challenger Division in your community, contact Sam Ranck, Director of the Challenger Division, at: 570-326-1921; or e-mail: challenger@LittleLeague.org.