Amador Valley High plays with Challenger Little Leaguers

On Sunday a special baseball game took place between the Amador Valley High School varsity team and the Challengers Baseball program.
March 25, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A memorable match up this weekend has left dozens of Tri-Valley area kids beaming in the East Bay. The Challengers Baseball program is for kids with a wide range of special needs. The coach did something that made their season totally unforgettable.

Amador Valley High School's varsity team is used to dominating the baseball field, but on Sunday they were asked to play a different role.

"I couldn't think of anything better to do on a Sunday," said Zac Lander, a varsity baseball player.

All 25 players came to a Challengers Little League game to act as mentors. The Little Leaguers have various disabilities some are in wheelchairs and others, like 11-year-old Ryan Berry, have autism.

"I'm good at batting, playing third base," said Berry.

Each Challenger was paired with a varsity player. It was a first time team up between the two. And what was created within those two short hours was magic.

"To see my son Ryan just glowing, see Jack and Even, his brothers engaged and a part of the whole day, it really was a special feeling," said Diane Berry, a Challengers parent coach.

"Very emotional, it was kind of hard to hold back a tear," said Keegan Sheehan, the 17-year-old varsity team manager.

Sunday was extra special for Amador Valley's team manager because Sheehan was once a Challenger's Little Leaguer.

"It made me feel proud because it made me feel like a role model to them," said Sheehan. "If they ever want to be on the high school baseball team, 'Wow this kid had disabilities and he got to be on a high school team, I could do that same thing,'"

To say the Dublin ball fields were filled with pride Sunday would be an understatement because bringing these groups of people together to play ball has left a lasting effect. Senior Zac Lander is now working with the special education class at his school and has volunteered to go to the prom with one of the students.

"It's really helped me see that not everyone can do what you do and you're lucky and you shouldn't take it for granted," said Lander.

For Lander, Sunday created a deeper connection to a sport he already loves. It has also given him confidence.

"I'm ready to play with the professionals," said Berry.

This won't be the last time these two teams meet up. They plan to make it an annual event.


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