Syracuse Challenger Baseball Opens its Season Syracuse Challenger Baseball Opens its Season

A record 250 players are expected to take the field this summer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Play ball!

Syracuse Challenger Baseball is back for its 32nd year in play. The Challengers opened their season on Tuesday night.

Challenger Baseball is the largest Little League program suited for children and adults with special needs in the country. A historic 250 players will take the field this season.

Executive director Dom Cambareri is excited about the league’s continual growth. He says that the Challengers’ style of play is suited for everyone — for instance, players receive unlimited pitches until they make a hit. That way, they’ll always make it to base safe.


child jumping over baseball plate
A couple of players hopped over home plate in excitement.
© 2024 Taylor Mascetta

“Everybody hits, everybody runs, everybody scores!” Cambareri said.

The Syracuse Spartans are a local collegiate-league baseball team that often volunteers at the Challengers’ games. Pitcher Luke Boule joined the Spartans two years ago, and says the Challengers bring a smile to his face every time he helps out.

“They play the game so happily here,” Boule said. “No matter what happens, they’re always smiling, laughing, [or] cracking jokes.”


baseball players
The Syracuse Spartans spend time bonding with the players.
© 2024 Taylor Mascetta

The players can’t get enough of the game, often dancing at bases or gleefully leaping over home plate. Jorden Kunego is one of these players — she’s been a Challenger for over 10 years. Her mom, Jodi Kunego, is grateful for the opportunities that Challenger Baseball has offered Jorden.

“Before she started playing, she didn’t want to go outside or do any sport,” Kunego said. “I forced her to come that first year, and after that, [she’d say], ‘Mom, Mom! When’s baseball? When’s baseball?'”

Kunego emphasized the importance of the Challenger League for Jorden and her friends.


baseball field
Challenger Baseball plans on building additional fields for more games.
© 2024 Taylor Mascetta

“It’s amazing because, if you have a wheelchair, you can still navigate the field,” she said. “If you’re blind, we have a beeper ball so you can play. There’s no reason why they can’t play anymore.”

Cambareri says there are plans in place for further expansion — soon, Challenger Baseball will have seven areas to play on. Challenger Baseball’s season runs throughout the summer, with games on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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