Challengers Head To All Star State Tournament
West University Little League and First Colony Little League Challenger Divisions will combine to field a team on behalf of District 16. WULL’s Challenger program started in 2005 and FCLL’s in 2007. District 16 also has Challenger programs at Katy American Little League and Missouri City Little League and combined, these four leagues serve approximately 250 special needs players and 400 buddies.
Fourteen lucky players will travel to Tyler, Texas the weekend of July 23-25 to play the game of their lives. Coached by Michael Miller and Scott Sattler, team members will include: Kenneth Adkins, Sean Barone, Hannah Bauch, Sofi Bauch, Natalie Gay, Blakeley Kress, Jim Li, Maggie Mae Merrill, L’Air du Robertson, EZ Roy, Devin Singley, Emily Stromatt, Heather Jo Thomas, and Kamden Thompson.
Challenger Baseball was founded in 1986 and is a division of Little League International, www.littleleague.org. The opportunity to play youth baseball should be afforded to all children and through, Challenger it is.
Everyone plays, everyone scores, and everyone wins as the children with special needs round the bases, assisted by their middle and high school buddies. The buddy program is instrumental in making these special children’s dreams of playing baseball come true and in reality, the buddies get just as much if not more out of the program as they realize the abilities of their special friends rather than seeing their disabilities.
“When we started Challenger programs in the area, we thought we would change the lives of special needs children but these precious players and their families have changed ours,” Joni Hruska Fichter, District 16 assistant district administrator, said. “The friendships which form on the fields expand far beyond the baselines as our teens learn to walk in the cleats of others who dream the same dreams they do.
“Challenger is a gift from and to the entire community as it takes the volunteer efforts of many, generosity of numerous sponsors and donors, and commitment of the league boards to make our programs so incredible. Every child should have the opportunity to play ball and we are blessed to share weekly games with our Challenger friends.”
Thanks to the invitation from state tournament director, Mike Farrell, the immediate support of WULL and FCLL boards, hard work of Bruce Hicks, and the generosity of District 16’s District Administrator, Charlie Fox, this special team will enjoy an amazing weekend as they take to the field in Tyler.
Other donors include the Rotary Club of West U, Minute Maid, Continental Airlines, American Airlines, Cyberonics, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the Lubojasky Family, and the Clines Family who stepped up to the plate to send the Challengers on their way.
The Challengers will participate in the opening ceremonies along side all stars from around the state who have won their district and sectional titles. Then, immediately following, the District 16 Challengers will play the team from Oak Ridge Woodlands Area Little League (ORWALL) and on the adjacent field, Rose Capital Little League Challengers will face the team from Pearland Little League while family, friends, and fans cheer them on. After the Challenger games, and with a little luck, the Challengers may get the chance to watch some of their hometown teams play in the state finals.