John Adams High School Students Teach Children in the Challengers Division

By Britney Trachtenberg britt@queensledger.com

The families of the Challengers Division of W.O.R.K.S. Little League gather for a group picture. Credit: Britney Trachtenberg.

Baseball players from John Adams High School visited the Challengers Division of W.O.R.K.S. Little League on Sat., May 4 to teach children how to play the sport in Tudor Athletic Field.

John Adams High School students Yanko Pineda, Braylin Matteo, Kenny Perez, and Chris Polo helped the Challengers learn the fundamentals of baseball during three innings of play. Topics included catching the ball in the outfield. 

Chaluisant stands with Pineda. Credit: Britney Trachtenberg.

In 2011, Walter Chaluisant and Terrence Flanagan founded the W.O.R.K.S Little League Challengers Division, which gives children a sense of community. The division is open to children with physical or developmental conditions. The kids enrolled in the program are split into two teams: the Bulldogs and the Wildcats. The Kiwanis Club of Ozone Park-Woodhaven sponsors the Bulldogs while The Kiwanis Club of Maspeth sponsors the Wildcats.

Chaluisant said, “A lot of these children when we originally started thirteen years ago were from New York Families for Autistic Children. Now, we got different kids from different places.” Then, he said, “We know all the kids here. It’s all about kids getting out and playing baseball. It’s really about the interaction for a lot of these parents with other children. Other parents too.”

The Challengers practice on Sat. mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in Tudor Athletic Field. “This field used to be dirt. Every time it rained at night, me and my partner would come and make the field playable. Four, five in the morning, we’d get here. The best thing that happened to us was making the field turf,” said Chaluisant.

The division does not have outs, strikes, or keep score during practice. Instead, the division focuses on the joy of playing baseball. Chaluisant greeted each family by name as they arrived at the field.

The practice started with the Bulldogs at bat and the Wildcats in the outfield. Lisa Kruger called each batter up to the home plate. She coached the Wildcats along with her husband, John. Each player swung their bat until they hit the ball. Afterward, their parents helped them run to each base.

The last batter gets a home run to end that team’s turn at bat. The high school students lined up to give each Challengers player a high five.

Chaluisant said, “This way, somebody gets a hit or a home run every at-bat. There’s no winners. There’s no losers. You know what actually, the winners are the kids.”

Players in the outfield do not have specific positions. Instead, players can try each position and see which one they enjoy most.

Rosanne Honan-Delgado of Forest Hills found out about the Challengers through a Facebook page called Queens Special Kids. “A couple of the parents had posted about W.O.R.K.S. Little League, so we were really interested. We were looking for more socialization, having Riordan get out there, and so we’re looking forward to it.” When asked if Riordan has a preference for a specific position, Honan-Delgado said, “he seems to gravitate towards first and second because he likes talking to other kids. I think it’s teaching him a lot of patience. I think it’s also teaching camaraderie, like working with other kids [and] working with adults. I think he’s learning, besides the fundamentals, [how to] be part of a group.” She discussed how the Challengers Division has helped her as well. “It’s nice to have a community. It’s nice to be with other people who understand your child.”

Kruger’s twin sons played in the Challengers. “My husband and I used to chase them all around until the morning because they were inattentive [and] not focused. [They] just wanted to run, run, run, run, run. We just kept bringing them back year after year.”

Chrissy Gibson of St. Albans said that her son, David, made progress during his time with the Challengers. She said that it taught him hand-eye coordination, participation, social skills, and self-resolve. 

Right-handed pitcher Pineda can throw at ninety miles per hour at eighteen years old. He earned a full-ride scholarship to Dominican University. He learned to share love by helping out with the Challengers.

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing