Little League International came to the rescue of a local league on Tuesday, overriding one of Little League's own inflexible rules which would have prohibited a 12-year-old with cerebral palsy from sitting in the dugout with his friends and teammates.
As reported by CBS New York, the Journal News and a handful of other area outlets, Brewster (N.Y.) Little League 12-year-old Evan Sussman suffers from cerebral palsy, but still considers himself part of the league's all-star squad. The middle schooler attended all of his team's games while serving as the team's scorekeeper throughout the Little League season and was expected to be in the dugout for a forthcoming tournament.
Those plans were unceremoniously derailed when a tournament director informed Sussman's coach, Bryan Brooks, that he would not be allowed in the dugout because he did not qualify as an official player on the team's roster. To accomplish that distinction, Sussman would have had to participate in at least 60 percent of the team's games.
Since the 12-year-old is confined to a wheelchair, that participation threshold was never a possibility. The participation and roster rules are allegedly instituted for liability reasons by Little League within the association's bylaws.
Yet, just when it appeared that Sussman would be unfairly barred from sitting in the dugout as his squad's season reached a climax, officials from Little League International intervened and provided a direct override of standard regulations, stating that Sussman would immediately be eligible to sit in his team's dugout for the remainder of the season, a change that was implemented in time for the team's game against West Nyack (N.Y.) in the New York state Section 4 championship on Wednesday night.
The integration of Sussman into the rest of the team was immediately hailed by his teammates, mother and the pre-teen himself as an important return to normalcy for the team.
"I know they want to be protective, but I still want to be in the dugout with everybody else," Sussman told CBS New York. "They need me."
Equally, Sussman needs the interaction he gets with his teammates, too.
"He has an experience like every other child does," said [Sussman's mother] Karen Kushnir. "He feels that he's part of the family and part of the community."