GENEVA — The Geneva Twins and Red Wings kick off the New York Collegiate Baseball League playoffs today — the Twins will host Rochester at McDonough Park beginning at 1 p.m. while the Red Wings will host the Syracuse Salt Cats in their postseaon opener at 6 p.m.
This past Wednesday the Twins were on the road for a doubleheader at Olean. The Red Wings, meanwhile, had their own doubleheader at McDonough. A few hours before their NYCBL game against Oneonta, they took on Challenger baseball, a part of Finger Lakes Youth Sports.
The program offers kids with special needs the chance to take part in sports like baseball, bowling, basketball and soccer. Finger Lakes Youth Sports Challenger baseball has been a part of the Geneva scene since 1993. It has also had a long relationship with the Red Wings and Twins.
“We’ve never beaten the Challenger teams,” Twins and Red Wings executive general manager John Oughterson said with a wide smile as the Wings and Challenger warmed up and set up bases in the outfield.
With over 30 kids in the program, there were plenty of smiles on the field coming from both teams.
“Coming out to the big ball field (McDonough), the energy the older players give to our kids — the self-esteem, you can see it in them,” FLYS program manager Tonya Luna said. “It’s an amazing experience. As a parent, it’s great to see the kids smile and interact and enjoy the game of baseball.”
Collegiate players come to Geneva from across the country every summer to play in the NYCBL for the Red Wings and Twins. During those few months they get a chance to connect with the community while playing games almost every day.
“It’s amazing — anything to give back to the community,” said Tommy Haas, who is in his second summer with the Red Wings. “I’m from Arkansas. I’m a long way from home and when they told us were going to play with some kids, it’s just like growing up again.”
The connection between the Twins, Red Wings and Challenger baseball goes beyond their scheduled meetings at McDonough. Challenger baseball plays its games on Saturday mornings. Members of the Twins and Red Wings have been there to root on the players.
“The kids love to play baseball and to have the (Red Wings and Twins) show up and play with them put smiles on their faces,” Finger Lakes Youth Sports board member Kelly Hart said. “The players have been so kind and compassionate with the kids. And to have them show up early in the morning for our games is great. It shows they enjoy it, they really do.”
“The kids really look up to the players,” Luna added.
The game was a forgone conclusion: Rack up another win for Challenger baseball.
“Just to play baseball with them and to see the smiles on their faces is great; to see them run around like we do,” Haas said. “As college guys, we dream of getting to the pros. They dream of just getting on the diamond. We give them a chance to do that.”