by Claire Carter | Staff Writer
The Challenger baseball league was designed for elementary to high school aged kids with mental and physical disabilities to have the chance to play baseball on an organized team to promote self-motivation and encourage them to be their best, but instead of counting score, everyone’s a winner.
“I volunteered with the Challenger League the whole season. Being a challenger buddy I help the kids bat and run bases,” sophomore Zack Koboldt said. “The kids are always happy and having fun no matter what they’re doing ”
Every week each player is paired up with a ‘Challenger Buddy’ who runs the bases, bats, and fields with them. Buddies are there to encourage the players and help emphasize their talents through baseball.
“Playing challenger league helps kids be out and active and play a team sport,” Koboldt sad. “We’re teaching them to play baseball but more importantly we teach them be the best they can be and just have fun.”
Buddies are not only helpers to the players, but also friends.
“I volunteer with the Challenger League because it’s very rewarding to become friends with the kids and you get to make the players happy,” sophomore John Donoghue said.
Parent of a Challenger League player, Angie Ramseur, brought her son with down syndrome out to McAllister Park for this year’s season. He looked forward to his Saturday mornings and couldn’t wait for his trophy at the end of the season.
“The Challenger League gives the players great joy to experience being on a team and being accepted whatever their abilities are,” Ramseur said. “All week he asks ‘Baseball today?’”
While on the outside, children with mental and physical disabilities put on a smile and seem happy all the time, it is typical for these children to have further health issues holding them back from playing baseball with their friends.
“There is just so many emotions I feel as a parent watching him play. Some of us didn’t even know if our kids would make it out of the NICU and many of the players still have medical issues,” Ramseur said. “And whether they run or wheel across the home base they are our stars.”
The Challenger League touches the hearts of the players and buddies, but also allows the parents to see the success of their children in an encouraging environment where everyone’s a winner.
“It’s a blessing to watch your child who struggles every day with basic things feel successful on the field,” Ramseur said.