SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) – In 1982 the oldest little league for special needs children was formed in Syracuse. The Challenger Baseball League began with only two teams formed by a group of parents to create a safe and fun place for children to play baseball. As time went on Challenger began to take shape and is now the largest Challenger league in the country with close to 300 children and adult participants.
Challenger created a unique experience for its players that many people only dream of, to play on the big stage. On Saturday, Aug. 3, Challenger finished out the season with games at NBT Bank Stadium, home of the Syracuse Mets.
Coach Kevin Childress has been with Challenger for nine years and spoke about why this event continues to be so special for all participants involved.
“These kids were told they couldn’t play baseball, they couldn’t do this, they couldn’t do that, these kids aren’t handicapped they are ‘handicapable’,” Childress said. “Every child should be able to play baseball, and if that means you got a wheelchair child playing baseball or a child with limited mobility, guess what, let’s play baseball.”
There are no outs in this league and everyone gets a hit and scores a run.
“It doesn’t matter how long it takes … when they hit that pitch it’s a big smile,” Childress said. “Then they start running the bases they are having a ball, they are having an absolute ball. And it brings great joy to myself as well as the other coaches.”
Challenger Baseball has given the special needs community an opportunity to play baseball at no cost for years, and hopes to continue fulfilling dreams for years to come.