Syracuse Spartans team up with Syracuse Challengers | #specialneeds | #kids

Baseball is America’s pastime, bringing people together for more than a century. In Central New York, the game has also led to a special bond between a New York Collegiate Baseball League and a group of special needs stars.

JJ Potrikus had a solid earned run average at Siena College, Cortland and during his time in the pros.

“I retired from pro ball with the 0.00 ERA, but my ERA here is like, infinity,” Potrikus said.

What You Need To Know

  • The Syracuse Challenger Baseball League is the oldest and largest baseball league for adults and children with disabilities in the world
  • The Syracuse Spartans have teamed up with the Syracuse Challengers since 2017
  • On Tuesday night, the NYCBL team played a game with the Challengers at Carrier Park

That’s the point. With every hit, JJ celebrates. With every run he “gives up,” he gives out high-fives.

“To see the Challenger athletes that excited and joyous to be here, and see our kids having that much fun to be here with them, it’s incredible. It’s just emotional,” Potrikus said.

Syracuse Challenger baseball is the oldest and largest baseball league for adults and children with disabilities in the world. The league has nearly 300 children and adults who participate.

There are no strikes, no outs. Only at bats, hits and a ton of smiles, including on JJ’s face, the president of the Syracuse Spartans.

“It was the definition of inclusion. You take a picture of this here, and we’re standing by their side. They feel like big leaguers standing on this field, and our players are impressed,” Potrikus said.

A game with the Syracuse Challengers has become a staple of the season for the New York Collegiate Baseball League team.

“Our mission is to help these boys grow as young men at first, then as baseball players. That means giving back to the community that’s supporting them. Our guys learn more from the Challengers than they learn from us,” Potrikus said.

The Spartans schedule is hectic. They play 42 games in 53 days, but that doesn’t stop them from making time for the Challengers throughout the summer.

“It’s great. Anytime you can get people out here, you can’t beat it,” Charlie Burton said.

“It’s great. Just seeing the smiles, knowing that they want to be out here just as much as me when I suit up,” Jack Clifford said.

“They got to see a bunch of kids that love baseball and treat them exactly like everybody else and welcome them,” Potrikus said.

There are no boundaries on the field, where both the Spartans and the Challengers are making memories that will last a lifetime.

“They’ll be taking about this for the next 10 years. They’re going to go back and tell their teammates what an amazing organization this was, and they’ll remember it the rest of their lives,” Potrikus said.

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