It was a day that reminded even the most seasoned of baseball fans what the game is really all about; it was the first ever World Series baseball game for people with disabilities held on the Kenai Peninsula.
The thrill of the batter as he or she hit the ball and raced to first, the coming home and crossing the plate with arms in the air, and even the smiles from the umpires were all American. Kenai Mayor John Williams threw out the first pitch to Kenai Borough Mayor Dale Bagley behind the plate, and the games were under way. "This was just great for all the participants and people involved; Joe Malatesta had a good idea and everyone is having a real good time here today and you can feel the excitement," said Mayor Bagley.
Participants receive their ball glove from event creator Joe Malatesta Sr.
It all started a couple of years ago with an idea in the mind of Joe Malatesta Sr., to have an event where people of all ages with disabilities could participate in a fun sport that most folks take for granted. Malatesta shared his dream with the staff and board of directors at Frontier Community Services and the Kenai Little League and plans were under way for the 2004 World Series baseball game for people with disabilities.
Ken Duff, Frontier Commnity Services executive director and Joe Malatesta Sr., during opening ceremonies of the '04 World Series baseball game for people with disabilities.
"My family and I wrote the first check, and from there the community stepped up to the plate and hit home run after home run," said Malatesta. By the time the first pitch was thrown out, some 36 businesses and individual sponsors had pitched in so that the players all received trophies, hats, gloves and medals to remember their special day playing Americans greatest sport. Hall Quality Builders even constructed the ramps that were necessary for the players to get in and out of the dug-outs. "All of the volunteers and contributors that assisted in this event turned a dream into reality. It provided over 50 athletes with disabilities a day in their lives that they will never forget. A memory they can dream about and a hope that there will be another baseball World Series in 2005 that they can participate in," added Malatesta.
All participants in the '04 World Series for people with disabilities received a trophy, baseball glove, gold medal & cap.
Little League District one administrator David Gemmell attended the event and said, "For the State of Alaska, this means quite a bit for Little League and the communities that we are showing interest in the disabled and the kids that all too often are forgotten about in many of our organizations. It's a tribute to our umpires who are really out there doing all the work running the games today and I take my hat off today to the umpires association of Kenai and Soldotna today." Following the games, the athletes were awarded their trophies and everyone was treated to a barbeque of Kenai wild salmon, burgers, and hot dogs.
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