Captains players participate in special game with local athletes BY TIMOTHY W. SHIRER SPORTS EDITOR
On Sunday afternoon at Classic Park, prior to their game with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Lake County Captains took on an even more important opponent, the Paineville Challengers baseball team.
The Challengers is made up athletes who have some form of physical or mental disability. The special athletes got the opportunity on Sunday to take on the Captains in a baseball game on the field at Classic Park.
The Challengers are a division of the Painesville Little League. The players in the division can basically be any age. The division was formed two years ago by John Stemple. Stemple himself is confined to a wheelchair and has been involved in Painesville Little League Baseball for 10 years. He said he had heard about other league's like the Challengers and decided that he wanted to get something started in Painesville.
Stemple said a game like the one with the Captains on Sunday, "Means the world to the children."
One of the Challenger's coach's Scott Montz said, "It's fun. It's a good time, they're really enjoying it. Montz son Austin is a first year player on the squad.
The experience was not all one sided though. Captains manager Dave Wallace commented that he thought his players were getting as much enjoyment out of it as the Challenger players.
Second year Captain Nick Bartolone, who carried one of the Challenger players around the bases said, "It really put's things in persective." When asked why he offered to carry the girl around the field the Lake County utility infielder said, "She just made my heart melt when she smiled." He went on to say, "It's something I'll always remember.
Captains Director of Special Projects Bill Levey said, "This is why I got back into Minor League Baseball. To give back to the community. This was a win win for everyone involved."
This was the first year the Painesville Challengers played the Captains. But the game has been going on for several years against the Captains players.
The final score of the game was unimportant, the Challengers did defeat the Captains though in case there was any doubt. The big winner though was everyone involved in the event.