It all started ten years ago with professional baseball umpire Joe Maletesta’s love of the game and love for those who rarely got to play it because of disabilities. In partnership with Frontier Community Services (FCS) the first FCS World Series Baseball event was held at Soldotna Little League Park. “We started with two teams that year and had trophies, gloves and balls for all participants and this year we have eight teams, over 100 players filling all four fields at Kenai Little League Park and the community support for this event is just awesome,” Maletesta told the Dispatch at this year’s opening ceremonies. “When you think about baseball the meaning for America runs deep, through great depressions and world wars it’s been a constant to lift our spirits and challenge us to step up to the plate. For a nation of immigrants it’s all about coming home and for the athletes here today it’s about their abilities not their disabilities, this is baseball at its best,” he said.
While Maletesta may have had the original idea for the World Series according to Joe it’s FCS office manager Kathy Kenner that has kept it going and growing over the years. “It’s an afternoon of fun, food and baseball. The community has really supported us over the last ten years by turning out for the event. The Peninsula Oilers come to help coach along with Kenai River Brown Bears; they autograph baseballs for all the athletes and have a great time helping out in so many ways. Leon Marcinkowski and his daughter have been there every year barbequing fresh salmon donated by Snug Harbor Seafood’s, hot dogs and hamburgers are donated and we are so grateful for this community and their support,” said Kenner. “This event offered individuals who experience a disability the opportunity to play the Great American Pastime. It was a very inspirational (and fun!) day that gave the player a chance to show off their athletic abilities. There were over 60 players and with 100 plus people cheering them on. The players were not just from the Kenai/Soldotna area but we had folks travel in from Homer and Seward to participate. Every participant received a medal and a baseball signed by the Peninsula Oilers. This event is able to take place because of the generous support by many individuals and organizations throughout our community. The event had 44 sponsors and over 50 volunteers who gave of their time, talents and finances. This event simply would not happen if it were not for the generosity of the community. A great big thank-you goes out to everyone, said Ann Shirnberg, FCS director of administration and development.