Evan Sussman has long enjoyed being part of the Brewster Little League team, so the boy with cerebral palsy was surprised when he was told he couldn't sit next to his teammates in upcoming games.
"I was so sad and so upset," said Sussman, 12.
Sussman is in a wheelchair, but the boy has sat in the dugout with his teammates for every game in the last three years. His coach, Bryan Brooks, said a league tournament administrator told them Sussman was not allowed to be in the dugout in future games for liability reasons.
Little League International issued a statement saying that anybody who is in the dugout must be a roster member of the team. To be considered a member, the organization said, "you must play 60 percent of the games."
That is impossible for Sussman, even though his coach and teammates say he's an immense help to the team even when he's not on the field.
"He helps us win, he's like a coach and he helps us," said teammate Brendan Brooks.
Coach Bryan Brooks said Sussman helps him with pitch counts.
"He's constantly coaching me, telling me who I should put in, who I should take out," Coach Brooks said with a chuckle. "He tells me when the pitchers are tired and when he thinks changes should be made."
Coach Brooks said a part of the team has been missing without Sussman in the dugout.
"He wasn't in there with us, where he could totally reach out, watch them slap high-fives, so it was disappointing," he said.
Sussman's mother said the team embraces her son and makes him feel included, which hasn't always been easy.
"He has an experience like every other child does," said Karen Kushnir. "He feels that he's part of the family and part of the community."
"I know they want to be protective but I still want to be in the dugout with everybody else," said Sussman. "They need me."
Little League International said the Brewster team can apply for an exception to include Sussman on the team. Coach Brooks said he hopes he can do it in time for their next game on Wednesday.
An earlier version of this article said a coach from an opposing team in West Nyack objected to Sussman being in the dugout. It was a league tournament administrator who objected, according to Sussman’s coach Bryan Brooks. The article has been changed to clarify this.
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