KNOXVILLE (WATE) – On the surface, it might just have looked like a rec softball game in early June. To those in the ballpark, it was so much more.
“They look forward to the day we play a sport,” said Challenger Sports Chairman Nic Arning. “And when they play this, this is like the World Series for us.”
Established in 1997, the Knox Youth Sports Challenger program gives youth with special needs a place to play ball against one another. On this day, they have a special opponent: the 2016 Softball State Champion CAK Lady Warriors.
In an effort to raise some money for the program, senior Haydn Tanner organized a rec softball game between the athletes of Challenger and the champions of CAK.
“It’s just a blast, coming out here,” Tanner said. “Hanging out with the kids and playing a little baseball. Nothing like it.”
The Challenger sports team agrees.
“I mean, this is one of the greatest experiences for me,” said Alex Brown, a member of the team.
In front of friends, family, and complete strangers, Challenger destroyed the Lady Warriors 42-0. This was always about something beyond a box score.
“We lose a kid every now and then and it hurts. It makes me feel good to know we’ve given them some fun in their life. But every now and then it’s a pretty bad affliction and they just pass away,” said Arning.
This was about a team – a team of colorful kids getting a chance to shine on the big stage. A team dedicated to seeing those kids smile.
“You can have a terrible day at work, you come here and play baseball, and all your worries go away. It’s that impressive to all of us,” said Arning.
“It always brings a smile to your face, coming out there and watching these kids play and having a good time,” said Tanner.
And it was also about a team that just hoisted a state championship, finally meeting their match.
More online: Knox Youth Sports
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