Cody Pfeffer and Tanner Reaves’ Challenger buddy was supposed to be using his wheelchair during Thursday’s Little League Baseball Challenger Division season finale.

Instead, the young ball player left his wheels behind and ran stride for stride with the Blinn College sophomore baseball players on their way to second base, giving true meaning to the “Challenger Strong” patch printed on the right sleeve of his jersey.

All in all, it was a sight to be seen at Canyon View Park in Grand Junction, Colo.

“This may be the highlight of the entire JUCO World Series experience,” Buccaneers head coach Dusty Hart said. “This is at the top of the list in terms of what we get to do while we’re here. It really puts things in perspective, and seeing the smiles on all of these kids’ faces just brings joy to your heart. I hope today encourages all of our guys as they move through life to continue to give back.”

Tanner Reaves & Cody Pfeffer Challenger Game 2024
(Pictured: Blinn’s Tanner Reaves, left, and Cody Pfeffer, right, run with there Challenger buddy on May 23, 2024)

Blinn, which will compete in the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series starting Sunday, was one of four teams invited to participate with eight Challenger Division teams Thursday. McLennan Community College, also out of Texas, as well as Georgia Highlands College and Johnson College Community College are also in the World Series and also participated.

Founded in 1989, the Challenger Division is a branch of Little League Baseball designed to provide opportunities for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges. The program supports thousands of special needs athletes worldwide.

The Buccaneers split into two factions to assist athletes in the field, at the plate, and on the base paths as the Raptors battled the Hawks in a high-scoring, 60-minute ballgame. Blinn’s two crews helped players from both teams with hitting, running, pitching, and fielding. The game ended in a 16-16 tie.

“This deal is incredible,” Reaves said. “Everyone that helps put all of this together are tremendous people. I know we as a team enjoy impacting other people’s, but I think they impacted our lives today just as much as we did theirs. This was an incredible experience and something I’m thankful that we had the opportunity to be a part of.”

Carma Brown, co-director of the Little League Challenger Division in Grand Junction, Colo., said her branch began the JUCO buddy partnership with NJCAA baseball programs almost 20 years ago, adding that she has since seen the lasting impact of the Division reach new heights.

Marshall Lipsey & Tyler Bogusz Challenger Game 2024
(Pictured: Blinn’s Marshall Lipsey, front, and Tyler Bogusz, background, warm up with their Challenger buddies on May 23, 2024)

“Having the JUCO buddies changed the entire dynamic of Challenger … this is a huge grand finale for our players,” Brown said. “Our athletes look forward to seeing the players return each year. To our kids, these JUCO players are like Major Leaguers. When they come here, this night is Major League to our kids and you can’t put into words how big that is for the players and families involved with our organization.”

Blinn also participated in the Challenge finale during its run in the JUCO World Series in 2023 and had the privilege to team up with a large number of the same athletes Thursday.

“We were here last year with the same teams and same buddies, and it was just an amazing experience,” sophomore Tyler Bogusz said. “It was no different today. The game of baseball feels like it can be so serious for us sometimes, but moments like today give us an opportunity to step back and remember just how fun the game really is while also giving us a chance to share it with some really special people.”

Blinn begins its run in the JUCO World Series against Crowder College at 10 a.m. on Sunday at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. 

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 47 NJCAA national championships since 1987.

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