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Students Design, Build Concession Stand for ‘Challenger’ Field

Everyone’s a winner in Little League Baseball’s Challenger Division, which offers disabled youngsters the same opportunities as other children to take part in the national pastime. Thanks to a group of Pennsylvania College of Technology students, special-needs players and their fans now have one more thing in common with baseball lovers everywhere: a hot dog and soda at the ball field.

Students in Harry W. Hintz Jr.’s Practical Construction class in Penn College’s School of Construction and Design Technologies recently designed and built a concession stand at the Challenger Division field in South Williamsport, which is used by two local teams for twice-weekly games.

The project the latest in a long history of community-service projects undertaken by Penn College students began with a parent’s brainstorm and turned into a lab project and final exam for Hintz’s class. The students got involved at the suggestion of Steven J. Moff, an assistant professor of business administration/marketing at Penn College and the father of two children who play in the Challenger Division.

“These are kids that usually aren’t cheered on, who just want to put on a uniform and play baseball like any other kid,” said Moff, who explained that the Challenger Division covers a range of ages (5- to 18-year-olds are eligible) and a variety of disabilities from severe physical handicaps to slight mental deficiencies.

Parents double as pitchers, there is no scoreboard, no infield grass to interfere with walkers and wheelchairs, and every player bats in each of the game’s two innings.

Just as Little League adjusts rules and field specifications for its Challenger players, construction students made accommodations of their own a real-life example of how contractors need to adapt to unforeseen situations.

“As the site is in the flood plain, we got permission from South Williamsport officials to build the structure on the condition that (it) be bolted down and able to be disassembled and moved for off-season storage elsewhere,” explained Hintz, an instructor of construction technology. “Students assessed these conditions, came up with the final design, did scale drawings and estimates on materials.”

That design even took into account specific needs of some Challenger participants: One of the concession stand’s windows is low enough to accommodate wheelchairs, and the window-opening hardware was installed at the top to enable that easier access from the front and sides.

Moff raised most of the $900 cost of the project, and College officials sanctioned the work as an approved class project. Students worked in the school’s indoor lab during the final two weeks of the Spring 2004 semester, paneling the walls and roof for the structure. Then, they loaded all of the pieces onto a College vehicle for transport to the job site.

There, on a recent sunny afternoon (and under the approving eyes of two local Challenger players, 10-year-old Hunter Moff and 13-year-old Kyle Regopoulos), they completed assembly as their final exam. The six students involved are Darren M. Brungart, Spring Mills; Blaze J. Bauer, St. Marys; Andrew J. O’Connell, Perkasie; Ryan A. Benny, Burnham; Brady S. Bachman, Kreamer; and Brandon J. Helbing, Dalton RR 1. Brungart and Bauer are Construction Carpentry majors; O’Connell, Benny and Helbing are enrolled in the Cabinetmaking and Millwork major; and Bachman is in Building Construction Technology-Masonry Emphasis.

“The students did a super job, as the building went together like clockwork,” Hintz said. “Tolerances were very close, and any mistakes would have been obvious. I think that you will find the final result to be a professional project.”

Moff proudly agrees.

“This stand is important to us,” he said. “Having a place to store soda and food having a place that’s ours really is nice.” For the past few years, a local soft-drink supplier donated use of a portable concession trailer. The teams were grateful, Moff explained, but the company understandably found a higher-traffic spot for its facility.

Challenger parents, like Little League families everywhere, navigate near-impossible schedules that don’t always allow for dinner before one of the teams’ Tuesday and Thursday games. Simply knowing they can grab a hot dog or two players included is appreciated, he added.

With that familiar whiff of crowd-pleasing cuisine, it helps everyone feel like they’re not that “different” after all. Which was exactly Little League’s goal when the Challenger Division was formed nearly two decades ago.

“This is the fastest-growing division in our program,” noted Chris Downs, media relations manager for Little League Baseball and Softball. “It provides boys and girls with disabilities the opportunity to experience the emotional development and fun of playing Little League Baseball.”

The involvement of Penn College’s faculty and students represents the sort of support from the community an atmosphere of outreach and teamwork that has helped make Little League such a successful venture in so many neighborhoods around the world.

“And, obviously, any improvements to the field itself are going to be a benefit,” Downs added.

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