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SUNDAY DISPATCH, SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2012

A league of th

Those with physical and mental disabilities find home, camaraderie in Victory Baseball By JOE HEALEY

jhealey@psdispatch.com

T

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he first pitch set the tone. Slam! Out-of-the-park home run over the left field wall. AJ Warakomski rounded the bases, grinning ear to ear. The round tripper on Wednesday night in Fred DeSanto Little League Stadium in Pittston Township started the opening game of Victory Sports baseball season. Victory is a sports organization for adults 21 and over with physical and mental disabilities, but the players and their families weren’t worried about any of that. They were there, clearly, to have fun. Gerard Wazeter never played baseball before. His mother, Sandy, of Trucksville, said her son plays other sports: basketball, bowling, is involved in swimming, even bocce, but he never swung a bat before

PHILLIES

YA N K E E S

❏ AJ Warakomski of Mountain Top ❏ Bobby Jones of Wilkes-Barre ❏ Chris Berry of Pringle ❏ Christie Warakomski of Mountain Top ❏ Elizabeth Berry of Pringle ❏ Eric Davis of Swoyersville ❏ James Bonchonsky of Exeter ❏ Joey Hoffman of Nanticoke ❏ Kasey Riley of Plains Township ❏ Marc Roan of Larksville ❏ Matthew Echalk of Duryea ❏ Michael Sabol of Plains Township ❏ Raymond Spallone of WilkesBarre ❏ Robert Flaherty of Hanover Township ❏ Robert Lynch of Pittston ❏ TJ Jump of Plains Township

❏ Brandon Harvey of Larksville ❏ Christine Wesley of Dupont ❏ Daniel Kumor of Duryea ❏ Darryl J. Herman Jr. of Dupont ❏ Edward Orlosky of Avoca ❏ Gerard Wazeter of Trucksville ❏ Gino Grataldo of Avoca ❏ Charles Hillard of Edwardsville ❏ Jared Bellas of Avoca ❏ Joey Bubblo of West Wyoming ❏ Joseph Chopyak Jr. of Pittston ❏ Shannon Bailey of Wilkes-Barre ❏ Stephen D. Jones of Shavertown ❏ Thomas Casey of Kingston ❏ Tiffany Moska of Jenkins Township ❏ Tony Russo of Yatesville

Wednesday. “He’s so excited,” she said. “We promised him he’ll have fun.” “It’s fun,” he said timidly, but his exhilaration was apparent. Bonnie Robbins and her daugh-

ter, Shannon Bailey, who is in a wheelchair, enjoyed the game for an inning. Robbins said Bailey loved to See VICTORY, Page 31

Victory Baseball organizer Fred DeSanto, left, watches his throw during pre-game warm-ups.

B


SUNDAY DISPATCH, SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2012

heir own Phillies' Bobby Jones, right, jokes around with Yankees' Charlie Hillard before the inaugural game of the Victory Baseball League.

Game umpires Jim Jones, left, Jody Gurnari, and Dave Katyl joke around with Phillies' T.J. Jump before the national anthem.

Above, from left, Eric Davis, left, Matthew Echalk and Marc Roan goof around in the outfield during warm-ups at their game against the Yankees. At left, members of the Yankees stand along the third base line for the national anthem. At right, Phillies' Michael Sabol prepares to swing at a pitch during the inaugural game. A.J. Warakomski hits a home run on the first pitch during the opening day of the Victory Baseball league in Pittston Township on Wednesday night.

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PHOTOS BY BILL TARUTIS


Continued from Page 28

watch her brother and three sisters play ball. “She’s delighted that she can now,” Robbins said. The game is set up like a typical baseball game. The Yankees and the Phillies. Red and blue uniforms. But that’s where the similarities end. There are no strikes and no outs. No foul balls. The teams play three innings and players bats until they get on base. The ball is softer than a normal baseball. The entire opposing team takes various spots around the infield. No score is kept and every player is considered a winner. “It’s all about the players,” said organizer Fred DeSanto. “We’re here for them. As long at they have fun, we did our job.” Before the big game, players, parents, coaches and friends were treated to a feast of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, pasta salad, chips and soda. Even big packs of Big League Chew gum. Then, all the players were introduced by club vice president Bill O’Boyle. As Phillie Eric Davis of Swoyersville entered the field, he tossed his glove in the air and caught it. As Yankee Brandon Harvey was called, members of both teams chanted, “Harvey, Harvey, Harvey!” “He can dance, but can he hit? It’s Charlie Hillard,” O’Boyle announced. The Victory league is only in its second season. It is a continuation Challenger Baseball, which is open to play-

ers under 21. The league began in August 2011 and came about because of a 20th reunion of the original Pittston Township Challenger Little League Players. The original Challenger Little League began in 1991. At the reunion last year, many of the players wanted to keep playing. “They were chanting, ‘We want to play,” DeSanto said. “So

we said to ourselves, let’s start a league.” That was the birth of Victory. The teams first played in the afternoon from August to October, but many of the players wanted to play under the lights. So now they play at 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday “until they don’t want to play any more,” DeSanto said. “We’re here as long as they

want to be here.” The Victory Basketball League began in November and met every Wednesday at the West Side Career and Technical Center Pringle. They had 20 players on roster. Next up: Victory Soccer. “We have a soccer coach and a field,” DeSanto said. “All have to do is work out the details.”

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Victory relies on donations. Lawyer Bill Finnegan and accountant Jody Guarnieri donated time and resources to get the league incorporated. Llewellyn’s Pharmacy and Sapphire Salon sponsored the teams. “We are so grateful to the people and organizations,” DeSanto said. “Again, it’s all about the players.”

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