The Alice O’Neil Challenger Little League kicked off its 25th season Sunday with a parade and ceremony at East Lynn Little League’s Volunteer Field.
Although the weather could have been a little warmer, it didn’t seem to deter the players and their buddies who, following the ceremony, took part in a brief scrimmage. One of the big changes this year, league president Steve Scranton said, is the addition of a senior league that allows players over the age of 21 who have aged out of the program to continue playing. The league has two senior teams (6 players per team) and four regular (players age five to 21) teams.
Tom Dill, owner of the Lazy Dog in Wyoma Square, opened the ceremony by acknowledging the late Alice O’Neil, for whom the league is named. O’Neil, who died in 2011, was a tireless advocate for Challenger Little League. The long-time District 16 Little League administrator was instrumental in getting Challenger going 25 years ago and in finding it a home at East Lynn Little League after it had bounced around at various fields over the years.
“We all miss Alice,” Dill said. “But we know Alice is looking down on us.”
Dill got involved in Challenger at its inception when his late son, Jon Dill, played. The games were at what is now the Wyoma Little League softball field at Lynn Woods.
“He loved his days in Challenger,” Dill said. “Jon was a sports fanatic.”
Dill said his son looked forward to the games. He recalled how on game day Jon would be up and dressed two hours early. Tom Dill stayed involved in the program over the years as did his son, Bradley, who is now a freshman at Bridgewater State University. The younger Dill served as a buddy. Every player is paired with a buddy.
Scranton, who got involved in Challenger Little League many years ago when his son played, said a buddy not only helps the player at the plate and on the basepathes, but he or she can serve as a role model as well.
“A player can learn from his buddy and the same thing goes for the buddy. He can learn from the player,” Scranton said.
Scranton said the younger players don’t count outs. They bat around every inning so that everyone gets up. The new senior league players have asked to hav
e outs, he said.
Laurie Wentzell, a special education teacher and volleyball coach at English High School, was on hand to watch her 11-year old son, Marcus, play. Her older son, Brady, was his buddy. Brady is an excellent tennis player at St. Mary’s High School.
“It’s great for both of them,” Wentzell said. “Marcus loves it. Brady has had so much success (playing tennis). He’s always bringing home trophies. This is something Marcus can be involved in. He loves sports. He’s very competitive.”
The league plays its games on Sundays at Volunteer Field.