Challenger Baseball makes the game accessible for all
Baseball coach Chuck Marshall knows just the right way to pitch the ball to his players. His team gets a hit every time they’re at bat, and they never strike out. It took time for him to perfect this skill though –he’s trained for it from the day his son joined the team as a six-year-old.
But the true meaning of the game for this team -- and this coach – is about more than pitches and homeruns.
“Coach Chuck,” who is a Chick-fil-A business consultant based in California, is a coach in the Challenger Baseball league, run by Little League Baseball. The league is an adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges, and Coach Chuck has been a diehard advocate for 20 years.
The rules of Challenger baseball ensure all players have on-the-field success. Everyone makes it to first base, there are no outs and nobody keeps score. Marshall explains that, for these players, baseball is more than just an opportunity to get some fresh air.
“Baseball has given them confidence. It has given them friends. I’ve seen them flourish, and I think baseball is one of many things that has enabled them to have optimism for their lives,” he says.
This is especially important for the young adults that Marshall now coaches (through its two leagues, Challenger baseball accommodates players as young as four-years-old and has no maximum age limit for the adults who play), who sometimes get left behind after they finish high school.
“When these players are really little, they have lots of cheers. When they’re young, the world still cheers for them,” Marshall explains. “But often, all the cheering stops when they reach adulthood. It’s important for them to have activities that bring them joy.”
And Marshall contends this game does just that. “Baseball is one thing that gives these players a full life and purpose and joy. It helps give them a fulfilled life.”
Twenty years ago, Marshall’s league had just two teams. Now they serve two age groups with 30 teams and 450 players.
Marshall says if people have a heart to serve children and young adults with disabilities, the Challenger League is always looking for volunteer coaches. For more information on the Challenger Baseball League and how to get involved, visit www.littleleague.org/play-little-league/challenger.