Cook, who is originally from Brooklyn, runs a printing company from his home and has three children who graduated from East Meadow High School. While he loves East Meadow, he admitted that if it weren’t for the league, he probably wouldn’t live here anymore. “That’s the key that kept me in East Meadow,” he said. “I was going to retire, move down to Florida. This is keeping me here.”
Creating a successful environment
One of the league’s greatest attributes is the friendships that blossom not only among the players, but among the coaches, parents and youth volunteers, who are not disabled. The volunteers are recruited from other Little Leagues programs, Boy and Girl Scout troops, local churches and synagogues.
The relationships that form are beneficial for those with disabilities as well as those without, which is one of the Challenger Division’s purposes, Little League Commissioner Stephen LaSala said. “Whether you’re challenged or not,” he said, “it’s always good to be in an environment to form friendships.”
“I think it helps the typical kid as much as the Challenger,” agreed Dawn Ziminski, from North Merrick, whose 15-year-old son Brian has been in the Challenger Division for 10 years.
Bonds even form among spectators, as could be seen at a recent game, where Ziminski was watching the action from the bleachers with Marion Vizoso, also of Merrick, and Deirdre MacMullan, of Cedarhurst, who also have children in the Challenger Division.
Vizoso said that her daughter Riley, 13, loves to play because she likes seeing her teammates each week, and helping them on the field. “She’s very helpful to the other players,” Vizoso said. “I think it’s wonderful. We enjoy being here, seeing their friends.”
Dennis McCauley, a Massapequa Park native who coached baseball for seven years and enrolled his son Lucas, 18, in the Challenger Division last year, praised the work of the coaches. “Guys like me can coach baseball, but not everyone can do what they do,” McCauley said. “It’s impressive the amount of participation that’s here.”