Dade City Little League opens option for special needs kids
By Kyle LoJacono
The Dade City Little League’s Challenger Division Angels opened up their 2012 schedule at home against members of the Wesley Chapel High football team on Feb. 25.
The winner — both teams came out on top.
“I was ready for this,” said Wesley Chapel junior Leny Vega. “I knew it was going to be a fun time with the team.”
Aaron Allen and his wife, Sue, organize the Angels games. Their son, Shane, is on the squad.
“Shane loves to play,” Aaron said. “Just like all the kids on the team he looks forward to coming out each Saturday. No matter if they can hit it 2 feet or 100 feet they look forward to batting and enjoy running the bases.”
The Angels are the only Dade City program in the division, so the Allens ask local groups like the Boys Scouts or Wildcats football to play.
The program started with seven kids last year and has grown to 12. Current players come from Wesley Chapel, New Tampa, Zephyrhills and Dade City, but there are no set boundaries for those who want to join.
“Our hope is by the end of this year or next year to have two teams with the Dade City Challengers,” Aaron said.
One of the new recruits is Watergrass Ranch Elementary first-grader Dylan Williams, who played with the Angels for the first time on Feb. 25. Dylan’s mother, Andressa, heard about the team at the Pasco County East Special Olympics games at Wesley Chapel High on Feb. 16.
“We were ecstatic when I heard about it at the Special Olympics this year,” said Andressa, of Zephyrhills. “Dylan played in the regular Little League when he was 4 or 5, and he didn’t like it as much, but I think this is going to be really good for him. … It’s the little things that matter the most to parents who have kids with disabilities. Having a field here each week is just an awesome opportunity.”
The star of the day was Donald Pitts, who also played last year. The Angels’ first baseman hit a pair of inside-the-park home runs in the contest while also playing solidly in the field.
“Baseball is a very fun sport,” said Pitts, who lives in Dade City and attends Moore-Mickens Education Center. “I try to hit the ball so hard so I can hit a homer like the Major League.”
Pitts’ favorite player is Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, and he models his game after him.
“I try and hit like him because he hits homers and so do I,” Pitts said.
The Wildcats were out of their normal comfort zone on the baseball diamond. Vega said he last played baseball in the Land O’ Lakes Little League around age 5.
“Yeah I had to knock off some rust,” said Vega, who plays defensive end and offensive lineman in football.
Wesley Chapel coach Ben Alford regularly takes his football team on community service trips, such as reading to elementary students or volunteering at the Special Olympics.
“Coach wants us out doing these things because he knows it’s important and he wants us to see why it’s important,” Vega said. “He makes it fun out here while we’re doing this. It’s not like a chore or something like that.”
The Angels play home games on Saturday at John S. Burks Memorial Park in Dade City while traveling to nearby leagues like New Tampa. For information about the league or registration, call Aaron at (352) 206-4753 or Sue at (352) 206-4933.