‘Proud’ county honors Hazleton Little League Challenger team that played in LLWS

By Dan Stokes - [email protected]
Prior to the Hazleton Little League Challenger team being honored at a Luzerne County Courthouse ceremony for playing at the Little League World Series this summer, Kayla Senick, left, Justin Leonard and Carlos Cespedes look at artwork around the rotunda. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Ed Shoepe, president of Hazleton Little League, addressed the audience at the Luzerne County Courthouse during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team that played at the Little League World Series. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Jennifer Thomas, assistant to Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri, hands a commemorative T-shirt to 13-year-old Logan Taylor and his father, Ken, during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Player Brett Evancho, left, his father, John, and sister Summer applaud during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team at the Luzerne County Courthouse. - - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Davide Drauschak, 12, Savannah Pajovich, 12, and Lexi Mamourian, 9, were three of the players from the Hazleton Little League Challenger Division being honored Tuesday at the Luzerne County Courthouse for participating in the Little League World Series. - - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Council took time Tuesday to celebrate the Hazleton Little League Challenger team for making it all the way to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport this summer.

“The county is proud to honor and award the baseball players that represented us with pride,” said Luzerne County manager C. David Pedri. “They truly made Luzerne County proud.”

“The parents, coaches, volunteers and families also need to be recognized for giving themselves.”

Since 1992, Hazleton Little League Challenger has provided a way for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges to fulfill their dream of playing baseball.

The Hazleton team was one of only two chosen nationwide from a pool of over 950 possible entrants.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime honor,” said Ed Shoepe, league president. “We actually knew we would be participating in the Little League World Series two months before we were able to tell our kids due to the non-disclosure agreement.”

The team from Hazleton — featuring players from ages 4 to 22 — faced off against the Highland Baseball Club from Evansville, Indiana, in the 2018 Little League Challenger exhibition game.

“It was such a happy experience,” said slugger Brett Evancho. “Playing on the field with this group was fun.”

Evancho’s teammate, Carlos Cespedes, had a lot of praise for his coach.

“I was excited to play in the game,” Cespedes said. “But our coach is amazing.”

Cespedes’ coach, Joe Drauschak, has been the team’s manager for the past four years but has helped out with Hazleton Little League Challenger for six years in all.

“This was the greatest moment of my life,” Drauschak said. “Being able to represent not only the city, and the state, but the entire nation with these great kids is something I’ll always cherish.”

When Drauschak heard that Luzerne County Council was going to honor his team, he was taken aback.

“Honestly, it almost took my breath away,” he said. “They recognized the team effort from the kids, the parents and the coaches.”

Pedri announced each player’s name during a ceremony in the rotunda of the courthouse for friends and family to hear. Each player was presented with a T-shirt that said “Luzerne County Proud” and received a proclamation recognizing the team’s accomplishment from council chairman Tim McGinley.

Prior to the Hazleton Little League Challenger team being honored at a Luzerne County Courthouse ceremony for playing at the Little League World Series this summer, Kayla Senick, left, Justin Leonard and Carlos Cespedes look at artwork around the rotunda.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Hazleton-Challenger-1-1.jpgPrior to the Hazleton Little League Challenger team being honored at a Luzerne County Courthouse ceremony for playing at the Little League World Series this summer, Kayla Senick, left, Justin Leonard and Carlos Cespedes look at artwork around the rotunda. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Ed Shoepe, president of Hazleton Little League, addressed the audience at the Luzerne County Courthouse during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team that played at the Little League World Series.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Hazleton-Challenger-2-1.jpgEd Shoepe, president of Hazleton Little League, addressed the audience at the Luzerne County Courthouse during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team that played at the Little League World Series. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Jennifer Thomas, assistant to Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri, hands a commemorative T-shirt to 13-year-old Logan Taylor and his father, Ken, during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Hazleton-Challenger-4-1.jpgJennifer Thomas, assistant to Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri, hands a commemorative T-shirt to 13-year-old Logan Taylor and his father, Ken, during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Player Brett Evancho, left, his father, John, and sister Summer applaud during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team at the Luzerne County Courthouse.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Hazleton-Challenger-5-1.jpgPlayer Brett Evancho, left, his father, John, and sister Summer applaud during Tuesday’s ceremony to honor the Hazleton Little League Challenger team at the Luzerne County Courthouse. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Davide Drauschak, 12, Savannah Pajovich, 12, and Lexi Mamourian, 9, were three of the players from the Hazleton Little League Challenger Division being honored Tuesday at the Luzerne County Courthouse for participating in the Little League World Series.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Hazleton-Challenger-3-1.jpgDavide Drauschak, 12, Savannah Pajovich, 12, and Lexi Mamourian, 9, were three of the players from the Hazleton Little League Challenger Division being honored Tuesday at the Luzerne County Courthouse for participating in the Little League World Series. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
‘Proud’ county celebrates Challenger players

By Dan Stokes

[email protected]

Members of the Hazleton Little League Challenger team: Brett Evancho, Logan Taylor, Anais Siroki, Jimmy Novitsky, Olivia Novitsky, Tage Schmidt, Timothy Schmidt, Kayla Senick, Zachary Hallahan, Kevin Davis, Billy Francis, Michael Knipfer, Desiree Natt, David Drauschak, Lexi Mamourian, Savannah Pajovich, Carlos Cespedes, Justin Leonard, Grayson Schaub, Gabriel Reiss, Anthony Williams, Tom Kislan and Ryan Kislan.

Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes

Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes