Challengers come out swinging

The Challengers, now a chartered division of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, has 30 players and 100 buddies. (Photos by Benjy Kile)

By Sabina Mollot

On Sunday, April 22, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s Challenger Division for players with disabilities, kicked off the season with its first game at Con Ed Field.

The division has grown since being introduced last year and there are now 30 players with over 100 buddies. The division has players from ages 4-19 with developmental or physical disabilities and depending on ability, batters can hit off a tee or a ball is soft tossed.  Meanwhile, buddies, other members of the league, assist or just stay with players for support throughout the game so parents can watch their children from the stands. Little League fees, which include things like uniforms, are waived for Challengers.

The Challenger division was the idea of Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk, whose younger daughter Jamie has Down Syndrome and played Challenger ball where she used to live before the family moved to the city. Rick and his older daughter Jordan are the PSLL Challenger Division’s co-founders and co-commissioners.

Seth Coren, the PSLL’s president, recalled how when he met Rick, “The first thing he said was, ‘How come you guys don’t have a Challenger division?’ There was no reason we didn’t have it other than it was completely unfamiliar to us.”

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Met joins PSLL on opening day

Mets player Jerry Blevins joined the Peter Stuyvesant Little League at Con Ed Field on Saturday morning for a ceremony following an annual parade through Stuyvesant Town. (Pictured) Blevins with girls from one of the league’s two district teams (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On the sunniest opening day the Little Leagues of New York City have seen in years, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, celebrating recent district-wide wins, marched triumphantly through Stuyvesant Town, circling the Oval and then heading onto Con Ed Field on Avenue C.

The annual parade and kickoff celebration took place on Saturday morning, with the PSLL also celebrating another coup — the first-ever visit from an active member of Major League Baseball, the Mets’ Jerry Blevins.

For the past decade, the league has had a tradition of having a former player come to the field to give the kids a pep talk. Previous guests have included Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson.

Seth Coren, the league’s new president, introduced Blevins as “the most reliable pitcher in the bullpen, contributing to a historic 11-1 season.” He also joked that Blevins was also “an internet sensation” for stirring up some controversy when he said “Field of Dreams” wasn’t among the top 10 baseball movies of all time.

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Reminder: Little League parade this Saturday

The PSLL girls’ championship team members at Con Ed Field for last year’s parade. (Pictured) Olivia Sheh, Julianna Fabrizio, Sarah Acocelli, Camile Bernard, Dorie Levine, Amanda Haspel and Jordan Hayduk (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

REMINDER: The Peter Stuyvesant Little League will hold its annual parade and opening day ceremony on Saturday, April 14. Players and their families gather at 8:15 a.m. and begin marching at approximately 8:30 a.m., starting from 18th Street and First Avenue to the Con Edison Field located at East 16th Street and Avenue C. A brief ceremony will be held at the Con Edison Field from approximately 9-9:30 a.m.

Challengers make their debut

On Sunday, a division of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League for kids with disabilities played its first game. (Photo courtesy of PSLL)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this spring, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League debuted a new division for disabled players, The Challengers.

The kids were recruited pretty quickly, with just enough time for them to be able to march in the league’s annual parade on April 1. Then, last Sunday, the newly formed division played its first game on Con Ed Field.

For many of the 25 players, who’ve been placed on two teams, the Angels and the Braves, it was also their first time playing baseball.

Rick Hayduk, Stuyvesant Town’s general manager who helped form the division, said because of the severity of the kids’ disabilities, they wouldn’t have been able to qualify even to play tee-ball (which is how most Little Leaguers start). The players’ conditions include varying degrees of autism, cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome.

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PSLL celebrates big wins and new division

The PSLL girls’ championship team members wear celebratory jackets at Con Ed Field. (Pictured) Olivia Sheh, Julianna Fabrizio, Sarah Acocelli, Camile Bernard, Dorie Levine, Amanda Haspel and Jordan Hayduk (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

By Saturday morning, a downpour that had gone on throughout the night cleared up just in time for one of Stuyvesant Town’s most important annual traditions, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League Parade.

Hundreds of kids, clad in their new, colorful uniforms, marched alongside former Mets player and coach Mookie Wilson from First Avenue to Con Ed Field, where they got a pep talk from Wilson and a ceremony highlighting the league’s recent victories.

Jeff Ourvan, the league’s president, discussed the $16,000 the PSLL just received as a result of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit settlement. Ourvan said the funds, which came from unclaimed checks from the settlement, would be spent on batting cages as well as turf repairs.

Ourvan also praised players who last season, he noted, took home some impressive tournament wins.

Of a 13 and 14-year-old girls’ softball team, Ourvan said, “It was the first time in PSLL history we went on to play a state tournament.” The nine and 10-year-old baseball team and the 11 and 12-year-old team also each won a Manhattan championship.

“It shows you the quality of our league is improving,” he added.

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Former Met ‘Mookie’ Wilson will join kids at PSLL Parade

Mookie Wilson

By Sabina Mollot

When the Peter Stuyvesant Little League celebrates its season opening day, this year on April 1, former Mets outfielder and coach Mookie Wilson will join the players at Con Ed Field, and along their march through the neighborhood.

Wilson, whose real first name is William, played for the Mets for over a decade starting in 1980, then later played for the Toronto Blue Jays. In his post-playing career, he served as first base coach to the Mets first from 1996-2002, then again in 2011 for one season and has also managed other teams.

It’s a PSLL tradition to have a former pro baseball player give a pep talk to the kids and throw the first pitch of the season. Previous MLB guests have included Dwight “Doc” Gooden, former Mets player Keith Hernandez and last year, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine.

This year, players from the PSLL’s new division for kids with disabilities, The Challengers, will lead the annual parade, alongside Wilson.

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Peter Stuyvesant Little League to debut division for disabled kids

For Stuy Town General Manager Rick Hayduk, the effort is also a family affair. Daughter Jordan (left) is the divsion’s co-chair and daughter Jamison (center) will be a player. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With baseball season about to begin, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League will be debuting a new division for players with disabilities.

The Challenger Division is open to would-be players of any age up to 18 with any type of physical or intellectual disability, and was the idea of Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk.

One of Hayduk’s three daughters, 11-year-old Jamison, has Down Syndrome, and had participated in a Challenger Ball team where the family lived prior to moving to the community, in South Florida. However, there was no local division — until now.

Jeff Ourvan, president of the PSLL, explained that the reason such divisions exist (as opposed to just letting kids with disabilities play on any other team) is for their own safety.

“Some of the kids, I understand, have some fairly restrictive physical disabilities,” explained Ourvan. “Obviously we can’t have those kids playing against 11-year-olds who throw 50 miles per hour. So it’s mostly from a safety perspective.”

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