Syracuse Challenger Baseball Executive Director Dom Cambareri holds the “Challenger Trophy & Cup” as CNY Central Sports Director Niko Tamurian of the CNY All-Stars team talks to players and community members before the game. (photo by Lauren Young)
Dreams came true on the Carrier Park Field of Dreams in DeWitt on Aug. 28 after more than $18,000 was donated from Syracuse Challenger Baseball to support the development of the all-inclusive, fully-accessible multi-athletic sports complex.
Later that night, at its second annual charity softball game against Niko Tamiurian’s CNY Central All-Stars, the Syracuse Challenger Adult All-Stars came out on top with a close, 16-15 victory, winning back the Challenger Trophy and Cup.
In a pre-game ceremony for the game, Syracuse Challenger Baseball Program Director and Baseball Bash Chairperson Jennifer Savastino presented a check for $18,412.10 to the Friends of DeWitt Parks and Recreation Inc. for the future development of “Phase 2” of the Willis Carrier Recreation Center Carrier Park Field of Dreams, located at 1035 Kinne St. in DeWitt. Onhand to receive the check were DeWitt Supervisor Ed Michalenko and Friends of DeWitt Parks and Recreation Board President Dennis Cleary.
Syracuse Challenger Baseball, the largest special needs baseball league in the nation, raised the money from its November Baseball Bash fundraiser at the Doubletree Hotel in Dewitt.
“This donation to the Carrier Park Field of Dreams is made in recognition of the passion and dedication of the Syracuse Challenger Baseball children, players and families that were the inspiring source for the Carrier Park Field of Dreams,” said Savastino in a press release. “We remain committed to the goal that children and adults of all abilities should be able to play and recreate together at an inclusive sports complex.”
“A few years ago, this was just a dream,” said Cleary. “It’s because you showed us so much of what this could mean to have a stadium in the town of DeWitt where you can have an integrated field for everybody of all abilities to play baseball, and you’ve accomplished that.”
Michalenko mentioned new improvements soon to be made to the facility, stating that this fall the town will be reconstructing the playground facilities and in the spring there will construction on the pavilion. There will also be a second concession stand and more bathrooms being built, all handicap-accessible, said Michalenko.
Syracuse Challenger Baseball Executive Director Dom Cambareri called the families and children of the Syracuse Challenger Baseball Program “the heart of the inspiration of this magnificent facility. Over the years, the parents, the administrators, the coaches, the families and the children have done a lot of things to raise funds in order to make Carrier Park a reality.”
“The time is ripe to build the exciting Phase 2 of this complex, which will feature a multi-athletic magnificent turfed ‘Superfield,’ Boeheim Foundation basketball courts and the largest all-inclusive playground area in Central New York,” Cambareri stated in a press release.
The message to children of all abilities in the community, Cambareri said, is, “Yes, you can play!”
There were also three “special secret weapon baseball players” of the evening for the Syracuse Challenger Baseball team, including Mike Lindsley of ML Sports Platter and Pinstripe Passion, Herm Card, photojournalist and professor at Syracuse University and Senator John DeFrancisco.
This, however, was not the first time Card and DeFrancisco have played on a baseball field together — they were teammates on the Syracuse University baseball team in college, and this was the first time they had played together on a field in nearly 50 years.
“I want to thank Dom for calling us out here and honoring us 50 years after we were young, and [I] just want to say what a thrill it is to be associated with this program,” said Card.
“We’re very pleased to be here, and congratulations on all your efforts to make this set of fields possible,” said DeFrancisco.
When he first approached him about the project, Cambareri said, DeFrancisco told him he thought it was a “great idea.”
“He was the first to step up and help us on the political and legislative side of things, to kick us off with the groundbreaking, and we’re very appreciate of that,” said Cambareri.
Card, Cambareri said, has “extraordinary skills of writing and photography,” and is one of Carrier Park’s “biggest cheerleaders in the community.”
“It’s wonderful to see someone like Herm behind us, with both a pen and with a picture,” said Cambareri.
To learn more about Syracuse Challenger Baseball, visit Syracusechallengerbaseball.com or its Facebook page at SyracuseChallengerBaseball.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.