Little League Challenger Division Gives Everyone a Chance at Baseball
John grew up running bases and fielding baseballs on his Little League Baseball team. He looked back with fondness on his childhood memories and could not wait to share the experience with his son, Adam. When Adam was diagnosed with autism, John thought the experience of coaching him in Little League would never come to fruition. Adam’s dreams of coaching his son came true when his community added a Little League Baseball Challenger Division to their recreation department program.
The Challenger Division was created in 1989 as a separate division of Little League Baseball to enable children with special needs to participate in America’s national pastime – baseball. Today more than 30,000 children participate in more than 900 Challenger Divisions worldwide.
Children with developmental or physical disabilities, ages 4 to 18, (or up to age 22 if they are still in high school) are grouped according to their abilities. One team may consist of as many as 20 players. The Challenger players wear the same uniforms, shoulder patches and safety equipment as other Little League kids. Game officials recommend that no score be kept during a Challenger game. The baseball games may be played as t-ball games, coach pitch, player pitch or a combination of the three with everyone getting a chance to bat. The games consist of two innings allowing each child to bat per inning.
The key is for everyone to participate and have fun. Each Challenger player hits the ball and circles the bases. The children can even bring a “buddy” – a parent, sibling, or another Little League player – when playing in the outfield.
Adam played in the Little League Baseball Challenger Division last year. It was an amazing experience for him allowing him the same opportunity to play a team sport in a non-competitive environment. Playing catch with his dad, making new friends, running bases, fielding balls, wearing a uniform and winning his first baseball trophy gave him a sense of happiness and fulfillment that his parents could see in his face every day last spring. Adam looks forward to the upcoming season and can’t wait to wear his new uniform and practice with his teammates for another year of childhood memories.
There are some amazing organizations and events that allow children of all abilities to display their talents. Here are a few, or share with us some of your favorites in our community forum.
AbilityPath.org Talent Show
Little League Baseball Challenger Division
ESoccer Inclusive Soccer Program
Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Program
Autism The Musical
No Problem Orchestra