Tag Archives: Little League Challenger Program

Roundup: Baseball, Tennis, Gardens …

The road to the state championship ended one run short — and 3 innings extra — yesterday for the Staples High School baseball team.

The Wreckers’ Hiro Wyatt and Fairfield Warde’s Griffin Polley dueled brilliantly — and scorelessly — for much of the game. In the end — the 10th inning — Polley drove home the Mustangs’ winning run, in a 2-1 contest at Palmer Field in Middletown that was even closer than the score. It was the 2nd straight state title for the Fairfielders.

Congratulations to the Wreckers, and coach Jack McFarland, on their great run to the ultimate game of the season.

Hiro Wyatt — the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year — had a heroic season on the mound for Staples. (Photo courtesy of Staples Baseball)


Congratulations too to Staples’ number 1 doubles team. Karenna Birns and Audrey Kercher won the State invitational championship Friday, at the Milford Indoor Tennis Club.

The #3-ranked pair defeated Fairfield Ludlowe’s top seed 6-4, 6-3. They also won the semifinals in straight sets, over #3 Amity-Woodbridge.

Karenna heads to Georgetown University in the fall, and Audrey to the University of Florida. Congratulations to both — and to coach Jena Wider.

Audrey Kircher and Karenna Birns: state champs!


Speaking still of Staples: Westport photographer Tom Kretsch just returned from a tour/workshop in Washington state.

Walking around Pullman, he spotted pictures in many stores of the high school graduates, in windows and on signs.

He wonders if it’s something we could replicate in Westport.

Sounds like something to investigate. And it sure would be less intrusive than the epidemic of signs that sprawls all along the entrances to Staples, for every team and activity imaginable, which no one can even read.


And speaking again of baseball: The Westport Winners Challenger team, for players with disabilities, ended their 10th season yesterday with a special event.

A big party included player announcements and personalized trophies, plus free ice cream gift cards from The Porch at Christie’s.

Scenes from yesterday’s Westport Winners party. Coach Mike Connors (top left) has been with the program since it began in 2013.  

The Little League Challenger division is one of the best sports programs in Westport. Congratulations to all who participate — and all who make it happen!

The Challenger crew. (Photo and hat tip/Beth Cody)


Today is the open house at Prospect Gardens.

The public is invited to the magnificent Greens Farms property (Sunday, June 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; GPS either 13 or 25 Prospect Road).

Besides 9 acres of beauty and joy, Prospect Gardens offers something else.

Last year, the Greens Farms Garden Club has assumed responsibility for the 3-tiered vegetable garden, for their Growing For Good program.

Owners John and Melissa Ceriale turned over the space for their effort. All produce is donated to the Mercy Center in Bridgeport, at time serving as the only source of fresh produce for some of families.

Last year, the Greens Farms Garden Club donated over 1,600 pounds of vegetables. It’s a win-win-win: for the Ceriales, the Club, and Mercy Learning Center.

A small part of Prospect Gardens. 


The Westport Rotary Club is one of our town’s true jewels. Members never stop giving.

Earthplace director Tony McDowell (with trash bag) and other Rotarians hard at work, at the Gillespie Center. (Photo and hat tip/Dave Matlow)


Registration is open for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s annual Point to Point Compo Beach swim (July 16, 7:30 a.m.).

The annual open water race raises funds to benefit aquatics safety at the Y, through swim lessons for children and adults.

There are prizes for top finishers — and a kids race too.

Pre-registration is $60; day of registration, $75. Click here for details.

The start of the Point-to-Point swim.


America celebrates Groundhog Day on February 2.

Except here on “06880,” where today — June 11 — it’s “Westport … Naturally Groundhog Day.”

(Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)


And finally … on this day in 2002, “American Idol” premiered on the Fox network.

This became the best-selling song to come out of the show:

And this song has been covered the most:

(Be a sport! Please click here to support “06880.” Thank you!)





Unsung Hero #236

Baseball season is in full swing (ho ho). Which means there’s no better time to honor Beth Cody as our Unsung Hero than now.

Beth Cody

After nearly 22 years, Beth is Westport Little League’s 2nd-longest tenured volunteer. She is currently executive secretary, and as registrar handles all baseball and softball registration.

But her real value comes as co-founder and commissioner of the Challenger program.

She and her son Jack started Challenger — a program for children with mental and physical challenges — 9 years ago.

Together, they built it (and the Westport Winners team) from scratch. Beth administers it entirely herself — including outreach to sponsors, so it is entirely free.

Challenger commissioner Beth Cody (front, blue shirt) join Challenger players, buddies, Staples High School players and Little League alum/Duke University star Chad Knight (center rear, white shirt) at the diamond.

Westport Little League president Jeffrey Brill calls Challenger “the gold standard of our Little League.” Though Beth has no child in the program, she  singlehandedly coordinates it all: securing fields; ordering equipment, uniforms and trophies; scheduling and re-scheduling games; recruiting players ages 5-18; organizing coaches; finding and pairing over 200 “buddies” a year, and running creative events like Field Day, Halloween parties and pizza parties.

Beth attends every game and activity, home and away. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and helps create the warm, intimate feeling that is a Westport Challenger hallmark.

Among Beth Cody’s many activities: taking photos at Challenger games.

Buddies form lifelong friendships with players. Brill sees this first-hand with his son, a buddy volunteer with a lasting relationship with a player that transcends the diamond. Both have been enriched beyond measure.

Beth’s admirers are legion. A mother says, “After 17 years in Westport sports, she is the most dedicated team manager I have ever known. Beth shows patience and kindness toward every player, buddy, and the parents. She may be the most disappointed participant when we have to cancel due to weather!”

Parent Stacie Curran says the program provides “a true sense of belonging to a team. Challenger Baseball is a place of comfort and no judgment. Parents share common struggles, support, patience and understanding.

“We laugh, we cry, we rely on each other – and we owe our thanks for this club to the amazing ‘Commish’ Cody.”

Beth Cody with Westport Winner stalwart Dylan Curran.

Parent Beth Fahimi adds: “Beth is always at the helm. She is very calm and diligent, making sure each player has what they need. She provides a safe, first- class environment. She creates strategic lineups, knowing some children can wait their turn, or not. She watches, adjusts, and makes the team successful both playing and having fun.”

Congratulations, Beth Cody. You are our hands-down, heartfelt, Unsung Hero this week. And every other week too!

EXTRA INNINGS: Beth’s 31-year-old son Nicholas and 26-year-old son Jack played baseball in Westport from pre-school to high school. She has loved the sport since her first Yankee games as a 5-year-old, cheering for Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Before moving to Westport 30 years ago, she lived in Manhattan and was vice president/associate media director at an advertising agency. She and her husband Paul have been married for 33 years.

Roundup: Ukraine Rally, Nic + Zoe, MOMBAS …


Hundreds of cities and towns around the world are rallying in support of Ukraine.

Weston is one of them.

First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor inviting everyone to join her tomorrow (Monday, February 28, 5:30 p.m.), on the front steps of Weston Town Hall.

She says: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is devastating, infuriating, and heartbreaking. I assure you all that you are not alone in feelings of despair. One thing we can do is come together for the sake of unity and peace. As such, please join me to express in solidarity our support for the Ukrainian people, and pray for the safety of those whose homeland is under attack. I’ll be there with my candle. Feel free to bring one of your own.”

The Weston rally will show Ukrainians that they are not alone. (Photo/Tyler Hicks for The New York Times)


Nic + Zoe — one of the first stores to open in Bedford Square — closed Friday.

A manager for the women’s clothing store was packing up yesterday. She said, “We’re sad to be leaving. We’ll miss everyone.”

Ten other locations remain open, as does online shopping.


It’s clear from a quick look around any part of town: the babies are here.

Which means there are plenty of new moms. Which means there are plenty of people looking for a group.

The Westport Library is strolling (ho ho) over to help. On Friday (March 4, 10 a.m.) and again April 1, they’ll host meetings of the new MOMBAS: Moms Offering Moms Baby Activity Support.

It’s the brainchild of longtime Westporter Sooo-z Mastropietro. The mother of 3 became a birth doula during the pandemic to provide essential support for pregnant women, who really needed it.

It’s an opportunity to exchange resources, birth stories, and talk. Sooo-z says, “Whether it’s your first or fifth, having the support of people in a similar point in life can be rewarding, informative and empowering.”


Eight years ago, “06880” highlighted Clay Garner.

The lifelong Westporter and recent Greens Farms Academy graduate was unknown here.

But hundreds of millions of Chinese people knew — and loved — him. Using the stage name of 高山 (“Tall Mountain”), he was a recording sensation there.

Singing his own songs — a combination of traditional styles, R&B and pop — in both English and Mandarin — he was all over the Chinese versions of YouTube and Facebook. He has a huge following on Weibo (the Chinese Twitter), and appeared regularly on Beijing TV and China Radio International.

Because of strict government control of websites, “Tall Mountain” made no money from his fame. “It’s my contribution to international relations,” he said.

At that point, Clay was a freshman at Stanford University. Today — 5 years after graduation from there — he is …

… the chief innovation officer for San Jose, California.

The other day, he was a guest on the “Think Civic” podcast. Click here for a transcript of his insights into a wide range of topics, from how technology helped his city respond to the pandemic, to his advice to young people on the importance of local government.

Clay Garner


Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup included a reference to Sam Waterston, the “Law & Order” Manhattan DA who was also filmed in Westport for “Gatsby in Connecticut” — the documentary about F. Scott and Fitzgerald’s 1920 summer her.

Jeanne Reed notes that the film was not Waterston’s only connection here.

Turns out Sam Waterston was married to Barbara Rutledge-Johns. Known as “Barby” Johns, she and her younger sister Sandy (Alexandra) both attended Bedford Junior High School in the 1950s.

They are not Staples High graduates, though. Both went off to the Mary A. Burnham School in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Sam Waterston


Registration is open for Challenger baseball. Focusing on fun and building life-long friendships, it’s Little League’s adaptive program for people with physical and intellectual challenges. Those born between September 1, 1997 and August 31, 2017 are eligible. Out-of-towners are eligible, if their community does not have its own Challenger program.

Through generous donations, Challenger is completely free. To register, click here. For more information, email commissioner Beth Cody: westportball@aol.com.


Stop the presses (or the pixels): “Westport … Naturally” offers what may be the first hint of spring. The photo is from Thursday morning — the day before our latest snowstorm — in Bob Weingarten’s yard.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


And finally … Sally Kellerman died Thursday in Los Angeles, of heart failure. She was 84.

Kellerman was Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, in the 1970 “MASH” movie directed by Robert Altman. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe award, and an Oscar nomination.

Loretta Swit is better known for her portrayal as the lusty head nurse in all 11 years of the TV series that followed. But Kellerman was the original. Click here for a full obituary.

Pics Of The Day #926

Witches’ house at Winslow Park? (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Meanwhile, there was a special guest player at last weekend’s Challenger Little League game. (Photo/Beth Cody)

A Very Special Little League “Challenge”

The 2nd season of Challenger Little League baseball is in the books. And it’s hard to tell who had more fun: the boys and girls with disabilities, or the “buddies” who helped them.

18 “Westport Winner” players faced Greenwich yesterday, at the season-ender on Meyer Field.

As always, each Winner had a buddy to help them at bat and in the field. This time the buddies included the regulars — players’ siblings, and commissioners’ and coaches’ kids — plus special guests: 8 of the 11 boys from last summer’s Little League World Series squad. Scott Stagg and Mike Connors are the highly regarded coaches.

There may be no joy in Mudville. But there sure is at Meyer Field, during Challenger Little League's final day of the season.

There may be no joy in Mudville. But there sure is at Meyer Field, during Challenger Little League’s final day of the season.

After the game, the players and their buddies shared pizzas. Then came trophies, and player-picture baseball cards for all.

Everyone is already looking forward to next year. Congrats to all involved in this Challenger program — which is really no challenge at all.


Jack Cody’s Little League Challenge

Westport sponsors the 3rd largest Little League program in the world.

But until this year, it did not have a Challenger Division.

Starting soon, though, boys and girls ages 5-18 with physical or mental challenges will play baseball, just like hundreds of other Westport kids.

And they’ll do so thanks in large part to the work of a Staples High School junior.

Jack Cody stands near the Staples baseball diamond.

Jack Cody stands near the Staples baseball diamond.

Jack Cody is a former Little Leaguer and Staples baseball athlete. For the past 3 years he’s helped coach a Little League team. He’s also a member of Kool To Be Kind, the high school mentorship and anti-bullying program.

When Jack realized that Westport Little League did not provide opportunities for children with disabilities, he vowed to make it happen.

He researched Challenger programs in towns like Fairfield and Ridgefield. He got help from Norwalk; emailed Westport Little League officials; enlisted his mother Beth as commissioner, and made a formal proposal to the board. They loved Jack’s idea — and his enthusiasm.

Then he began recruiting players and “buddies.” They assist Challenger players on the field, but encourage them to bat and make plays themselves whenever possible.

Little League ChallengerTeams will be organized by ability, rather than age. Games are a couple of innings long. Everyone bats each inning.

There is no fee. Each player receives a personalized jersey and cap. The season begins April 27 and ends June 22. Games are on weekends, in Westport and nearby towns.

“It’s really important that every kid gets a chance to play baseball,” Jack says of his favorite sport. “I’m just really glad I can help make this possible.”

PS: Baseball is not all Jack does well. He and fellow Stapleite Warren Schorr have been selected to represent the school this summer, at a summit of young leaders in Singapore.

(Parents can register players for the Challenger program by clicking here. For more information, or to volunteer as a buddy, email westportball@aol.com.)