KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Tennessee baseball wraps up the regular season with a three-game homestand against Missouri beginning Thursday. Before the Vols call it a year, the team hit the field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Monday against its friendliest competition this season.
For the past six seasons, Tennessee has welcomed the Knoxville Challenger League to campus for a game. The league, which is geared towards children and young adults with special needs, has left each year with a win and a smile.
“It’s a special day for the kids from the Challenger Little League but I think it’s a better day for us,” head coach Dave Serrano said. “It’s a joy to see these young people and how much fun they have and the smiles on their faces.”
“You get caught in a season, caught up in school, but when you get out here and see how fun baseball is for them it kind of reminds you why you started playing it and why you really enjoy it,” Vols redshirt freshman pitcher Eric Freeman said.
The Challenger baseball program played its first game on April 28, 1997. The program began with four teams and about 30 children with special needs. Since that time, the league has expanded to eight teams with a roster of 80-100 children per year.
“It was great. I tried to hit a home run so I could get all the UT guys to go run after it,” Challenger slugger Randy Branson said.
The Challenger League, which has expanded to include basketball, golf, swimming and bowling, provides a great recreational opportunity for all children with special needs. For more information about the program, visit www.KnoxvilleChallengerSports.org.
“It’s very important, for me, for our kids, for morale, and they will be talking about it the rest of the year,” Challenge League director Nic Arning said.