Kempsville, Great Neck PONY Baseball give Champions center stage

Posted at 9:22 PM, May 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 15:18:13-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (WTKR)- If you found yourself in Kempsville on Sunday, you didn't have to look far for inspiration.

A community came together to make a field of dreams a field of reality for some young baseball players. Great Neck and Kempsville PONY Baseball held a Champions League Championship, giving those with physical and mental handicaps a chance at an organized baseball experience.

The two sides played two innings, giving each player a chance to bat twice.

"95 degrees out here and I've got chills on my arms," said John Shipp, Kempsville PONY Baseball's president.

It offered the sights and sounds of baseball along with the elation of players enjoying America's pastime. Players in wheelchairs and walkers were among those taking their hacks off the tee, getting an opportunity to take center stage.

"Some of those kids, watching them run the bases and field, it's just so inspirational," Shipp said.

"These kids are slightly different, they're just like us," noted Kempsville PONY Baseball Champions League Vice President Donna Eason. "They love the same things, they can do the same things, maybe a little adaptive and a little funky compared to ours, but they can still do it."

If it takes a village, it seemed the entire village was at the field on Sunday to lend a hand. Kempsville High School baseball and softball players were in the field serving as mentors and assistants. Coaches and volunteers were there to support in any way they could and plenty of spectators were in the seats to cheer on the Champions.

"With all the Kempsville players, all the PONY divisions coming out, the Great Neck people showing up, the family and friends that came out to cheer us on, it turned out amazing," Eason observed. "It's better than I could've ever hoped for."

"It gives you a real big perspective," added Kempsville head baseball coach Travis Sutton. "We coach hard, we want to win, we're all getting ready for the postseason and we're all sitting there thinking 'OK, how can we make sure we try to get to states,' but then you come out here and you remember what it's all about."

Smiles, support and selflessness were all present on Sunday afternoon as countless individuals were going the extra mile to make the sun shine a little bit brighter on a group of Champions.

"The support and the love and the outpouring of gratitude that I see, parents saying thank you just because their kid gets to come out here, it's amazing," Eason said.

Kempsville and Great Neck would both like to see the program grow, not just in their own leagues, but elsewhere as well. They hope that their Champions League Championship game might inspire others to help their own Champions take their swings.

"If I can be an inspiration to have other leagues do it, I'm more than willing and able to come out and help them out," Eason promised. "The more we can get out there, the more we can do today."

"I challenge the other leagues, if you don't have a Champions program, put a champions program together," added Shipp. "There are no limits to this program and we're developing it, so we can do what we want with it and really tailor it to the needs of the kids."

Great Neck and Kempsville ended the game in a 14-14 tie.

News 3 was proud to broadcast Sunday's Champions League Championship on our digital platforms. You can see it here.