Home-field advantage

Over the past five weeks, Richard Dick Dickershaid has been renovating three baseball fields in Woestina Park in time for opening weekend for the Challenger Baseball League.

"I think it's going to be a beautiful park," said Dickershaid. "I think it'll look like Yankee Stadium when they're done."

With renovations to the baseball diamonds in Rotterdam Junction almost complete, the Challenger Baseball League will soon have its own home field, with an opening day of Sunday, May 2, quickly approaching. The league, which is made up of children and adults with developmental disabilities, has grown with the addition of players 5 to 75 years old. The free program, which has been around for more than 21 years, is maintained by Dickershaid and his wife, Margie, who see more than 100 players running the bases four nights a week in 10 different ball clubs.

In October 2009, Steve Tommasone, former Rotterdam town supervisor, announced the permanent home for the Rotterdam Challengers Baseball League at the Rotterdam Junction park, which was formerly used by the Rotterdam Little League. Since then, the park has been refurbished using donations from the community and $50,000 that has been saved up by the league over the past 18 years, according to Dickershaid.

"I'm surprised that we have gotten as far as we did," said Dickershaid. "This thing has been like a jigsaw puzzle: piece by piece it came together."

For the past 10 seasons, the league rented space behind Five Corners in Rotterdam.

Originally a part of the Rotterdam Little League, the Challengers League left the program after their players wanted to stay with the sport past the age of 18.

Renovations to the park have included work on the fences along baseball fields, additions to dugouts, repainting and updating the concession stand, replacing grass and sod, and the addition of dirt that can be easily compacted for use with wheelchairs.

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