Little Leaguers from Massachusetts were given star treatment Thursday morning by police as they headed to a World Series game in Pennsylvania.
Police from Malden and surrounding towns, and state troopers, led the District 12 Challenger Little League team bus from Malden to the highway. The team was going to Volunteer Stadium in Williamsport, Pa., where they will take on Peterborough Challenger Baseball League players from Ontario, Canada, on Saturday.
The Little League’s Challenger Division is an adaptive baseball program for those with physical and intellectual challenges. Players can range from ages 4 to 22.
Players on the Massachusetts team have some form of autism, Asperger’s, Down syndrome, or have a physical disability or emotional distress, said Bernie Colbert, vice president of the District 12 team.
Colbert said he could tell that the players were all very excited about the police escort out of town to Route 1.
“You only get this chance once in a lifetime,” he said about the team making it to the World Series. “There are over 900 Challenger programs across the world and only two [teams] go. They’re not going to get this invite again.”
Marie Shea, the Division 12 team’s founder, said players were “jumping up and down” when they saw local police officers at the team’s sendoff Thursday.
Photos of police cruisers lined up beside the bus filled with players and family members were shared on social media by Malden police with the caption, “We will all be rooting for you!!”
“They couldn’t believe it. They worked so hard to get to this point,” Shea said by cellphone from the team bus in Connecticut on Thursday morning.
She credited Malden Mayor Gary Christenson for organizing the whole thing.
“We had the police from every town the children are representing, plus the state troopers were there,” Shea said. “It’s so surreal. I can’t believe we’re going there.”