National amputee baseball team plays in Burlington

Louisville Slugger Warriors are a team made up of amputee military veterans, wounded warriors and active duty personnel
Louisville Slugger Warriors are a team made up of amputee military veterans, wounded warriors and active duty personnel
Published: Jul. 22, 2023 at 9:18 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Some came from far away, and some live right here in Vermont.

But all of the Louisville Slugger Warriors came to Centennial Field on Saturday to play the game they love.

“I’ve been playing baseball since I was three,” said shortstop Kenny Celeste. “I’m from the Dominican Republic, so that’s what we do there. It’s more like a religion instead of a sport.”

“I played baseball my whole life growing up, all the way through college, and then I joined the military,” said third baseman Derrick Victor. “So I transferred to slow-pitch softball, and now back to baseball.”

The Warriors are a highly competitive amputee baseball team made up of military veterans, wounded warriors and active duty personnel. The players either currently play or once played at the college level. Together, they travel to play local teams across the country.

“It’s an honor and a blessing every time I come out here. We always have another new guy or two, so it’s never the same. It’s always a challenge, it’s always an adjustment,” Victor said. “You get chills every time you see these guys sliding their arm off after they swing and you have to go pick it up. The camaraderie, it’s amazing every time and I never take it for granted. It’s a blessing.”

Celeste spent 12 years in the Navy before retiring because of injuries to his left leg. Then, he moved to Swanton, Vermont for a job in 2017, and he hasn’t left since.

“We were looking for a place to settle down, relax for the kids, and Vermont offered that. It’s a win-win for me and my family,” he said.

His 40-minute drive to Burlington is the shortest commute on the team, but being able to play just a short trip down I-89 at a park like Centennial made Saturday that much more meaningful.

“The feeling of the park gives you that extra push to play better every single time you step on the field,” Celeste said. “It’s awesome.”

Being able to keep playing baseball together not only scratches that competitive itch.

“Those guys are competitors. To be able to play against regular players, it’s amazing,” Celeste said. “They really give you 100% of the time every time you step on the field.”

It can also turn complete strangers from opposite coasts into close friends

“This is my detached family,” Victor said. “Not everyone is military, but everyone has had to overcome some major challenges they’ve been able to do in their life. To get the opportunity to come and play baseball with these guys, it’s family, it’s a blessing, and I don’t take it for granted.”