Wednesday, November 6, 2013

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer -   

The Angels season ended over a month ago. The last pitch of the World Series has already been thrown. And yet, one of the most significant series for the 2013 was about to begin.

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013 was a gorgeous day in Orange County-the kind of day that makes the rest of the country jealous. It was in the low 80s, sunny, clear, with a light breeze. It was the perfect day for baseball.

I went to Angels stadium to attend the 8th Annual Orange County Little League® Challenger Classic. Over 900 children with physical and mental disabilities from 30 Challenger Division Little League teams throughout Orange County were given the opportunity of a lifetime: to play a game on the field at Angels Stadium. Developed as a partnership between The Angels Baseball Foundation and the Bank of America, I was in for a day of smiles.

See for yourself in my slideshow of pictures below. 

To be honest, this was the first time I had heard of this game. Although I have a nephew with special needs, he is not yet old enough to play baseball. And, he lives in the Valley, a distance away from Angels Stadium.

From the moment I arrived at the stadium, the excitement was palpable. The sheer joy and excitement was everywhere. Smiles were everywhere. Players told me that they slept in their uniforms so that they would be fully prepared for the day's events.

As I watched the players come onto the field, cheered on by local area cheerleaders, I wanted to find out how such an incredible opportunity came into being. I spoke with Dr. Darrell Burnett, a local area sports psychologist to find out more about how this event came into being. Like many great events, it was an accidental encounter between people wanting to do good for the community.

Click below to listen to an interview with Dr. Darrell Burnett.

I also spoke with Mark Merhab, the Chairman of the Angels Foundation to find out more about how the Angels, under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Moreno, have supported charities in and around Orange County. I was surprised to learn that in the past decade, the Morenos have donated over $3 million dollars through their foundation to over 400 charities and groups! That's a lot of good work in our community!

Click below to listen to my interview with Mark Merhab.

Due to the overwhelming number of players and teams, the day was divided into 4 sessions starting every 2 hours throughout the day. Each session got the opportunity to come onto the field through a crowd of cheerleaders and Bank of America volunteers, stretch, sing the National Anthem and recite the Little League® Pledge. Players were all smiles.

And then they got to play. But, they didn't get to play by themselves. Every session had current and former Angels players who came out to join in the fun. These included current Angels Jerome Williams and Steve Soliz and former Angels Jim Abbott, Bobby Grich, Clyde Wright, and Justin Speier.

Click below to watch my interview with Jim Abbott.

Click below to watch my interview with Chuck Finley.

Click below to watch my interview with Justin Speier.


Click below to watch my interview with Jerome Williams.

Click below to watch my interview with Clyde Wright.

Talking with all of them, it was clear that they got more out of the event than they gave. Never had I seen an Angels pitcher smile so much as he gave up hit after hit (and even a few home runs that went over the fence)!

This event could not have occurred without all the hard work from over 350 Bank of America volunteers and Little League® Buddies who came out to support the players and the game of baseball. However, all baseball fans are welcome and can attend the event to cheer on the players. I guarantee if you do come next year, you will leave with a smile that will last all day.

As we head into the holiday season, and think about how we can help those in our community, there are many ways to support those in need. Baseball is a great way to connect with the community. has proudly supported the Orange County Miracle League and has supported many of our own members in tough times. That's part of our commitment to the #AngelsFamily.

Remember, you can also support many worthwhile causes through the Angels Baseball Foundation to share your love of baseball with those who need it most in Southern California. So, while shopping for that special Angels fan this holiday season, consider buying him/her an Angels brick and know that your gift will not only put a smile on his/her face, but on the faces of many through the Angels Foundation.
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