Challenger Baseball 2017
For latest Challenger
updates please see https://horshamchallengernews.shutterfly.com/
Dear Baseball Players, Parents, Teachers, Therapists and Guardians:
Welcome to another exciting season of Horsham Little League Challenger Baseball (http://horshamlittleleague.com/custom_page?pageid=1170)! I am writing to give you updates on the registration process, and the 2017 season.
Last year, I created a site (https://horshamchallengernews.shutterfly.com/) that I update regularly, as the most efficient way to communicate with our families without losing messages in spam filters. That site should be your first stop for current Challenger information. I have also posted at that site information on sports for persons with disabilities in general, in addition to updates for our league.
Opening Day this year will be handled differently than in the past, because of the frequency of weather cancellations. Games will begin in early April, subject to weather. However, the traditional Opening Day ceremony will be held later in the month, in mid-morning to allow more families to attend. The formal ceremony will follow the same structure as in the past, with a parade and awards ceremony, but after the morning Challenger games. I encourage our families to stay for the ceremony. I will send details, and dates for picture day and for uniform pickup, when they have been set.
You should register for the Challenger Division exclusively through the process in this memo. You may see information about online registration at the Horsham Little League website (www.horshamlittleleague.com), or have received an email message recently announcing the opening of online registration. You should only use that procedure for your players who will play in a division other than Challenger. Because Challenger operates on a different timetable, and is funded differently, the coaches handle all registration ourselves. In addition, you will not see your Challenger player listed on the Horsham Little League registration process or website.
Challenger baseball is the division of Little League for players with intellectual or physical disabilities. We play noncompetitive games twice per week (on Saturday mornings, and on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons) at Deep Meadow Park, on Horsham Road. We don’t keep score, and there are no hits or outs – our sole purpose it to have fun, while being physically active. We welcome players of all ages who have different abilities of all types, both physical and intellectual, and who may simply need a little more time or attention than typical players. A general description of Challenger baseball appears at http://www.littleleague.org/Assets/forms_pubs/divisions/ChallengerBrochure.pdf.
We welcome players of all ages (whether or not over 18). In 2014, Little League adopted a rule clarifying that there is no maximum age for senior players. (http://www.littleleague.org/media/challenger/senior-challenger-faq.htm) If you have any questions about participation for your older player, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 215-241-8866.
As in the past, the league’s online registration system does not permit families to register multiple players in both Challenger and one of the other divisions; there is no space to designate the Challenger division. Please do not select an incorrect division for your Challenger player, since that could affect the team selection in other divisions. Instead, you should register your players for all divisions other than Challenger using the online system, and then register your Challenger athlete using the mail-in form in this message.
As in prior years, the league requires no registration fee for Challenger division - Horsham Little League has never prevented a player (whether in Challenger or the regular divisions) from playing if his or her parents could not afford the registration fee. The Horsham Rotary Club, Horsham Little League and anonymous individual donors defray the costs of the program for Challenger players whose family cannot afford the registration fee.
However, we ask those who can afford to pay to contribute all or part of the $135.00 fee. (The fee for two players is $225, and for three or more players is $300.) In addition, the league does not currently plan to require a fundraiser. Please note that thereis no late fee for registration in Horsham Challenger Little League - Challenger registration continues throughout the season. Our focus is on participation, at whatever point in the season a player finds us.
The regular Horsham Little League fees are $135 for a single player, $225 for two players, and $300 for three or more. If you register your other player online, you should simply pay by check, with your Challenger registration, only what the difference would have been had you registered online to get a multiple player discount. (There is no fee difference for registration of a single player.) For example, if you register two players who are not in Challenger (for $225), you should pay only $75 for your player in Challenger (the difference between the $300 fee for three or more players, and the $225 fee for two players). If you have only two players, please pay $90 (the difference between the $225 fee for two players, and the $135 fee for one player). If you happen to see this in mid-season, we can still accommodate your player (although the team assignment may be based on what size shirts we have left). In prior years, we have registered players even as late as a week before the end of the season.
In addition, please ask your friends and classmates if their players would like to play Challenger baseball, since we can always use additional players (the minimum age is 4). If you have a contact person for the Special Education program in your district, or for a special needs program, please send me that person’s name (or feel free to forward this message) so that as many potential players and coaches as possible can learn about our league.
To register, please see or download the registration form at the end of this message, and send the completed form (along with your check, if applicable, payable to “Horsham Little League”) to one of our long time coaches:
715 Marietta Drive
Ambler, PA 19002
We would like to place our order for uniforms by mid February, so it is important that we get back your registration form as soon as possible.
In the past some parents have mentioned that their player does not need a new shirt, because the old one still fits. I have added a line for that request to the form, to help cut our uniform costs, but please be sure to have your player try on the old shirt before you check that option. I know that my son was always growing into my clothes, and the shirt that was fine last year may not fit now.
Challenger also needs volunteers to help with activities, uniform distribution, fund raising, and coaching – everyone is welcome to help. This will be especially true this year, since I want to involve more parents in operation of the Challenger division.
In particular, I would like a volunteer to carry the Juniors equipment, who is willing to commit to attend each game, or find a substitute. Since I work in center city, and SEPTA has had challenges this year, I am not sure I will be able to get to the fields by game time (much less the 45 minutes ahead of time that I tried for). I would appreciate having another parent who can be responsible for holding our equipment bag, and making sure that it is on site at the fields by 5:30 on weekday nights, and by 8:30 on weekends. Ideally, that person could also take responsibility to circulate cancellation notices on days with bad weather, or to confirm that we will try to play on days with uncertain weather. I can provide instructions on these tasks if you may be interested. If you are interested, please inform Stan Jaskiewicz at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 215-241-8866.
Since I have coached or run the league since 2005, and my son has not played Challenger ball for several years, I am also interested in a suggestion from parents last year, to form a “Challenger board” to share the responsibilities of running the league (making schedules, ordering uniforms, ensuring coach coverage of all games, planning special events, etc.). Even if you don’t want to commit to being involved in such management, there are always things that you can do to help run our league, and new volunteers (especially those with special needs experience) are always welcome.
All volunteers who will be in potential contact with children other than their own must download and return the league’s security clearance form. This year there are two versions – one is for new volunteers (http://horshamlittleleague.com/uploads/1478799646.pdf ), and the other is for those who volunteered last season (http://horshamlittleleague.com/uploads/1478799674.pdf). You can complete this form online, download and save it, and print it out and fill it in.
Little League rules require that I submit a new form every year for every coach or person in direct contact with our players, even returning coaches and youth volunteers.
In addition, all volunteers must comply with Pennsylvania’s youth protection rules, described at http://horshamlittleleague.com/custom_page?pageid=1157. You must return the form found at http://www.pastatell.org/Background%20Check%20Signature%20Form.pdf to show that you have obtained the clearances required by state law, before you will be permitted to be on the field with our players. I thank Coach Melissa for her work in coordinating volunteer clearances last season. Her “Clearance Instructions” provide an illustrated, step by step guide; it is online at https://horshamchallengernews.shutterfly.com/. (The clearance procedures are not always “clear”, so don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.)
To anticipate a common question, you must include the SSN of the volunteer for Little League Baseball’s clearance checking software on the new volunteer form. If you have concerns about sending an SSN over the internet or email, you can email me the form completed with all information other than SSN; then call me (by phone) with the SSN, and I will physically deliver that form to the league officer who does the clearance checks, at the monthly board meeting (rather than send it by email). He will then shred the forms with SSN’s.
With our recent growth, we also can use more on the field buddies. I have attached and pasted in this message an appeal for youth volunteers, but please feel free to circulate it to persons who you think may be interested, or to youth or other groups whose members need service hours. (Please let me know if you would like me to send it to you as a Word attachment.)
As I have said many times, I believe our recent seasons have been quite special because of the number of youth buddies we had helping our players, both from Horsham Little League and from other Little Leagues in Montgomery and Bucks County. Students contemplating a career in special education or working with persons with disabilities may find Challenger baseball a good way to gain experience. Two of our Buddies even held a bake sale to benefit Challenger, and Kevin Barron (and other youth volunteers) run an annual baseball tournament to raise funds to build a dedicated Challenger Miracle League field, and continues to solicit support for that project. You can find information on his project at http://kpbarron96.wixsite.com/miraclefield/about.
If you feel that your player in Juniors is ready to move up to the Seniors division, please contact me or one of the other coaches, so that we may place him or her on the appropriate team. In addition, we are always open to ideas about how to improve the league or change our procedures; just send them to me or one of the other coaches.
We will circulate further scheduling details as soon as possible via the Challenger information website at https://horshamchallengernews.shutterfly.com/.
Since we provide all communications by email, it is important, if possible, that we have a working email address from each family. If your email is filtered for spam or other reasons, please permit email from email@example.com so that you do not miss any important messages.
For those who have not seen a Challenger game, videos of prior Challenger exhibition games at the Little League World Series are online at http://videos.littleleague.org/video/2016/08/31/2016+Challenger+Exhibition-c2MnRtNTE6 and https://youtu.be/dGAinxi14-s . (We run our games slightly differently, but this will give you an idea of what to expect.) http://horshamlittleleague.com/custom_page?pageid=1170
Finally, each year I like to include examples of persons with disabilities who have not been limited by them, and of persons who support athletes with disabilities. This year I have decided to feature the Phillies’ own Zach Eflin, and the story of his family and, especially, his sister. His description of his sister’s arm strength reminds me of many of our players, whose throws come in so hard that I must catch them in the web, rather than in the palm of my glove.
Baseball: An escape for Zach Eflin, his father
By Tom Housenick
As many baseball memories as Zach Eflin has of his dad, Larry — he has countless — the moments that are closest to his heart are those of his father on the field with someone else.
Zach, a recent call-up by the Phillies to fill a spot in their starting rotation, speaks proudly about how his father helped create a Challenger Little League in the family's hometown of Oviedo, Fla. The tremendous devotion and time commitment meant Zach's sister, Candace, who has special needs, had a place to show off her unbelievable arm.
"That was huge," Zach said. "He has taken the time to care for my sister, whatever she needs. That's a big memory for me because she means so much to me."
Larry said Candace, 24, is globally developmentally delayed after what is believed to be a lack of oxygen during her birth.
According to KidsGrowth.com, being globally developmentally delayed is characterized by lower intellectual functioning and accompanied by limitations in communication and self care, among other things.
"She understands everything," Larry said. "She's a bright girl. You just can't give her too many commands in a row."
You can give her a baseball though.
"She's got a cannon of an arm," Larry added. "Zach's friends, when they first saw her throw, said she's got the best arm in the family."
Baseball has been a huge outlet for the entire Eflin family. They have needed it.
Two decades ago, Ashley, the second of Zach's three older sisters, battled leukemia. After receiving a bone marrow transplant from Candace, she was cancer-free before dying of pneumocystis pneumonia.
Ashley's passing brought obvious emotional trauma throughout the Eflin household.
"It was like someone rolled a hand grenade under the table, blowing everyone in different directions," Larry recalled.
Larry and his wife, Catherine, divorced.
Despite being overwhelmed with grief, Larry recognized the one place he had to be, wanted to be.
"I realized that I couldn't change that that happened," he said. "So, I had to change everything else. I started focusing all of my attention on my kids."
For a time, Larry worked two jobs to put food on the table. He has spent the last 23 years working at the University of Central Florida as a waste water operator.
Larry is tending to his children's needs when he is not working.
When Zach was 4 years old, he and Candace, 6, played T-ball together in Oviedo. As Zach worked his way through Little League, Candace was a 12 year old playing with 7 and 8 year old boys.
It was a mismatch … just not the way you would think.
"It got to the point where I didn't feel comfortable, that Candace was going to hurt somebody because of how hard she was throwing the ball, and some 7 and 8yearold boys can't catch."
That stirred thoughts in Larry's mind about his daughter's future in a game she clearly enjoyed. There was a Challenger Baseball league in existence, but it didn't serve the needs and desires of those participating, he thought.
There were no rules, no uniforms and it was played at 5 o'clock on Saturday afternoons.
Larry made it so instruction was part of the process and, in conjunction with Oviedo Little League, got uniforms for everyone. No score was kept, but rules were enforced and parents were not allowed on the field during the games.
Larry teamed with Jill Woodard, who did not have a special needs child in the program, to have siblings and buddies from area high schools aid in instructing the players.
It went over well.
"I don't know who got more out of it," Larry said. "The players or Zach and his friends."
The Challenger Baseball League blossomed during Larry's 11 seasons of involvement and the participants grew to love the game.
"It was huge for Candace to play sports and get outdoors," Zach said. "It turned into having 15 kids the first year to close to 100."
As Candace got the chance each week to show off her strong right arm, Zach became a pitching prospect. It didn't come, however, without bumps in the road.
Larry was an athlete in high school and attended Temple for a year back in the 1970s. He believed sports provided a wonderful outlet for him and his children.
It became more, thanks to life's curveballs.
"It was kind of our escape from reality," Larry said. "Zach thrived on having that release from his life. It kept his mind busy."
Though Larry did everything he could for his only son, he knew Zach was being shortchanged even with three strong, supportive grandparents in his life.
"There are some things dads teach their sons and some things moms teach their sons," Larry said. "Zach missed out on that female influence in his life."
Zach blossomed as an early teen traveling 20 to 30 miles to play in Babe Ruth tournaments, then garnered attention from college recruiters and pro scouts. It was thanks to Jered Goodwin, who coached one of the country's top travel teams as well as the Hagerty High School team.
"He went from “Zach my son” to “Zach the pitcher people are coming to look at,"
In Zach's sophomore year at Hagerty High, he told his father he was going to quit baseball. Larry responded simply by telling Zach that it would be his responsibility to tell Goodwin.
After a week of putting it off, Zach went to Goodwin's office and said that he wasn't quitting.
"From that point, baseball was not Dad's passion," Larry said. "It was his passion. It was a clear breaking point in him deciding what he wanted to do with his life."
On June 4, 2012, there were family member, friends, coaches and advisers in the Eflin home waiting for news about the major league draft. Zach, at 6 foot 6, 215pounds, was projected to be chosen anywhere between the 15th and 30th picks.
The first 30 picks came and went, and Eflin still had no idea where he would be later that summer.
"It is amazing how slow the process is when you are hoping your name gets called," Larry recalled.
After the Minnesota Twins took fellow pitcher Jose Berrios with the first pick in the Compensation A round in between the first and second rounds, Eflin got the call from the Padres.
Eflin spent his first three professional seasons in the San Diego minor leagues before being traded twice in two days in December 2014, eventually landing in the Phillies organization.
Larry saw his son pitch several times last season with Double A Reading, this spring training in Clearwater and during the Phillies Futures Game in late March in Reading.
He traveled to Toronto last Tuesday to watch his son make his major league debut against the Blue Jays and is at Citizens Bank Park today to see Zach pitch against the Diamondbacks.
Regardless of the outcome of his Father's Day start or any other he makes in the future, Zach is thrilled to be on a baseball field with his dad close by.
"He's done a lot more than he realizes," Zach said. "I'm thankful he's been my father and best friend."
Finally, I also note a Major League baseball all-star who stepped up to support the Challenger program in the city where he plays.
If anyone has any contacts with professional athletes or entertainers who may be interested in supporting our Challenger program, please let me know so that we can plan how to approach them, whether for support for Kevin Barron’s Miracle Field project, or for a special event for the 2017 Challenger season.
P.S. It is only 96 days until the start of games for our 2017 season!
CHALLENGER FALL BALL 2016!
I am pleased to announce that Horsham Challenger Little League will hold its first Fall ball season for players with disabilities, beginning this Thursday, September 15, and each Thursday evening thereafter, for as many weeks as the weather permits. Games will be held under the lights at 6:15 pm on Field 4 (the large field to your right as you enter the Deep Meadow complex).
The team will be coached by our Seniors coach Libby, but is open to players of all ages. Please contact her to let her know if you or your child plans to play, or if you can help as a Buddy; her email addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
We encourage our Buddies from the summer league to join us for Fall ball. It is important that Buddies let us know if they can help with Fall ball, so that we know we will have coverage for all of the players. We particularly welcome youth Buddies, whom we have found relate very well to our players. Many of our Buddies use their Challenger service as a community service project for school or religious obligations.
Adult Buddies who did not volunteer in the Spring season must contact Stanley Jaskiewicz at firstname.lastname@example.org to provide clearances required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Players who did not play in the summer should contact me at email@example.com to arrange for a uniform shirt, and hat or visor. I will also need the registration form found online at http://horshamlittleleague.com/uploads/1453498879.docx.
Since this is the first time we have offered Challenger ball in the fall, there will not be an additional registration fee. However, any family that wishes to make a free will donation to help offset the cost of running the league (turning on the lights, field maintenance, etc. ) may do so. Checks should be payable to "Horsham Little League."
Please share this information with other players, and potential players or Buddies. It is only 6 days until the start of Challenger fall ball for 2016!
Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Buddy?
By volunteering as a Buddy, you can help baseball players who are just like your children, but who happen to have a disability, in the Horsham Little League Challenger Division. With almost 100 families playing in recent years, we need "Buddies" to help our players in the field, running the bases and batting. Challenger baseball not only develops physical skills, but also gives players the confidence and self esteem to succeed, both on and off the playing field.
We play at Deep Meadow Park during the months of April, May, and June, every Saturday morning at 9, and alternating Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. No special training is required, other than patience, a cheerful attitude and a willingness to help others - you qualify to be a Challenger buddy if you can give a high 5, a big smile, or any other form of encouragement. Service credit is available for consistent participation by students.
If you or your child would like to help, please contact Challenger Player Agent Libby Felten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-375-6564. Please feel free to circulate this message to your players and others who may be interested in volunteering – all volunteers must pass a Little League background check. Little League publishes "Buddy Guidelines" for Challenger Division here.
According to a Middle Eastern proverb, a man walked past a beggar and suffering persons, and asked, "Why, oh God, do you not do something for these people?" To which God replied, "I did do something, I made you."
Download Challenger Buddy Letter Here: Challenger Buddy Letter