New infield at Centennial Park to allow for Challenger Division

Brady Schneider, 14, said he is excited to play at Challenger Field.

Credit: Kate Schneider

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Brady Schneider, 14, said he is excited to play at Challenger Field.

Credit: Kate Schneider

The Englewood Little League International will introduce a new division this summer that’s aimed at children and young adults with special needs, and begin construction on a baseball and softball field that will be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, officials recently announced.

The Challenger Division is opened to ages 4 to 18, and up to 22 if they’re still enrolled in school.

The nearly $113,000 baseball diamond will be located in Centennial Park in Englewood, and the infield will be made of synthetic turf. The project is expected to be completed in time for this year’s little league season.

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“It really was about a three-and-a-half-year process or a dream, and it was just so rewarding to hear about a week ago that everything was going through and that this dream was becoming a reality,” said Pete Bardonaro, Englewood Little League president. “This field could not only sustain its everyday purpose, which is baseball and softball within Little League International, but to provide this renovated playing surface that would be easily accessible for any participant to play on.”

The field will be funded primarily by a $75,000 Community Development Block Grant, which recently became available because the money was being used in the aftermath of the 2019 Memorial Day tornados. The remaining $38,000 will come from the Northmont Education Foundation, Englewood Little League and the city of Englewood.

The new infield will allow for children and young adults with certain challenges to be able to move around the bases with less of a chance of injury and other inhibitors.

“If you had a child who had to be in wheelchair or if they needed support from a walker, instead of having to dig through dirt and getting held up in different ruts of the dirt or mud the turf is going to be that softer surface where that type of need wouldn’t be enabled because of the dirt,” he said.

The turf areas will have a synthetic drying pad underneath to hold moisture and keep the field soft and dry.

Bardonaro said the people in his personal life played a large role in his decision to bring the Challenger Division to Englewood.

“I really began to research this because of the friendships that I had with folks that had children with special needs. I just thought about how easy something like that would be if we had that surface available, we could open the door for so many opportunities, really so many things for any child for that matter,” he said.

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Kate Schneider, a close friend of Bardonaro, and her 14-year-old son Brady are excited to have an accessible field closer to their Vandalia home.

“I think it’s awesome that we’re having something north of downtown because a lot of the services that are available are south of downtown,” she said. “That’s why we haven’t done it in the past because if its 40 minutes away, that doesn’t necessarily wok for us.”

Brady has Down Syndrome and participates in multiple sports activities including Special Olympics swimming, bowling, and power lifting.

“He’s very competitive and has so much confidence when he’s with his peers whether he’s on a track or in the swimming pool. That’s really when he shines,” she said.

Parents can register their children for the Challenger league my emailing ellbaseball@msn.com.

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