Challenger Baseball 2015
Dear Baseball Players, Parents, Teachers, Therapists and Guardians:
Welcome to another exciting season of Challenger Baseball! I am writing to give you updates on the registration process, and some exciting news about the 2015 is season.
Opening Day will be on a Saturday in mid-April. I expect that Opening Day ceremonies will follow the same structure as in the past, with a parade and awards ceremony before the first game on a Saturday morning. I will send the exact date and start times, 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 letter. 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 use that procedure only for your children who will play in a division other than Challenger. Because Challenger operates on a different timetable, and is funded through Horsham Rotary, the coaches handle all registration ourselves, and you will not see your child listed on the “Program” or “find my team” portion of the Horsham Little League registration process or website.
For those unfamiliar with Challenger baseball, it is the division of Little League for players with intellectual or physical disabilities. We plan noncompetitive games on Saturday mornings and Tuesday or Thursday afternoons at DeepMeadowPark, 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). This year, Little League adopted a rule clarifying that there is no age limit cap for senior players. (http://www.littleleague.org/learn/newsletters/ParentConnection/2014/tpcoctober14/senior-challenger-division.htm; http://www.littleleague.org/media/challenger/senior-challenger-faq.htm) If you have any questions about participation for your older child, 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 children 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 children for all divisions other than Challenger using the online system, and then register your child in Challenger 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 child (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 individuals 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 $125.00 fee. (The fee for two children is $215, and for three or more children is $295.) In addition, the league does not currently plan to require a fundraiser. Please note that there is 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 $125 for a single player, $215 for two players, and $295 for three or more. If you register your other children 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 child discount. (There is no fee difference for registration of a single player.) For example, if you register two children who are not in Challenger (for $215), you should pay only $80 for your child in Challenger (the difference between the $295 fee for three or more children, and the $215 fee for two children).
If you happen to see this in mid-season, we can still accommodate your child (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 children 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 child 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 child 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. I have coached or run the league since 2005, and my son has not played Challenger ball for several years. Several parents volunteered at the end of last season, and I hope that we can create 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. If you are interested please inform Stan Jaskiewicz at email@example.com or by phone at 215-241-8866 now, and download and return the league’s security clearance form (http://horshamlittleleague.com/uploads/1419958194.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.
To anticipate a common question, you must include the SSN of the volunteer for Little League Baseball’s clearance checking software. 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 said many times, I felt that last season was 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 even held a bake sale to benefit Challenger, and Kevin Barron held a 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://www.gofundme.com/h1d04w and https://www.facebook.com/pages/2014-Horsham-Home-Run-Classic-Tournament/263266577208442.
If you feel that your child 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 email. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org so that you do not miss any important messages.
One change I would like to consider, perhaps on a trial basis or for some games each week, is the introduction of “unified games,” a model established by Special Olympics in which typical players and adults compete on the field with the Challenger athletes. “Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. http://www.specialolympics.org/unified-sports.aspx I will circulate more information on this program as it is developed, but welcome the suggestions of anyone who has participated in a unified sports league. An exciting description of what unified sports can be, for both the Challenger athletes and typical players, comes from Special Olympics head Tim Shriver’s new book, “Fully Alive”: http://espn.go.com/espnw/athletes-life/article/11858075/excerpt-fully-alive-tim-shriver-espnw
Let me close this introduction to the 2015 Challenger season with a brief quote from Fully Alive, that I think describes our players very well, and what I have learned in my years of running Challenger baseball. http://www.npr.org/2014/11/15/364289639/shriver-finds-wisdom-among-the-intellectually-disabled. I chose this quote because it shows what our players can do, if given the opportunity – as I have often said, the greatest barrier to a person with a disability playing a sport is often the parent who assumes (incorrectly) that his or her child can’t do it, without ever trying:
Wisdom surrounds us. We just sometimes look for it in the wrong places. Timothy Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics, has written a new book in which he finds wisdom, insight, purpose and fun within people who are often overlooked and undervalued - people with intellectual disabilities. His new book, "Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most" and Timothy P. Shriver joins in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.
TIMOTHY SHRIVER: My pleasure.
SIMON: Let me begin by getting you to talk about a group of people who were at the Special Olympic World Games in 1995. They showed a photographer something new with a camera.
SHRIVER: Yeah, you know, in Special Olympics we have big events just like the other guys and on this particular occasion, (Bill Clinton), the president of the United States came for the first time in history. (O)ne of the professional photographers saw a group of Special Olympics athletes and noticed that they'd each had their little single-use cameras that they'd been given and they were trying to get a picture of the president, only they all had their cameras backwards. And he said to them, you know, you have to turn your camera around and then you look through the viewfinder and you click the button and you'll get a picture of the president way up high and the athlete, one of them turned to him and said, oh thank you so much, he said, but if you look through the viewfinder backwards it works just like binoculars and you can see the president perfectly clearly. And I love the story, Scott because that photographer was well-intentioned, but boy, were appearances deceiving.
SIMON: Several times in the book I'm struck by parents of children with intellectual disabilities who say to you and to each other, we're not cursed......This child is not a problem to be solved in our life.
SHRIVER: Yeah. I had a mom say to me the other day - you know, she has three sons. Two of them are bankers, one lives in New York and one lives in Chicago and one has a very severe intellectual challenge and lives at home and is completely in her care. And she says, you know, whenever I describe my three sons, I described the first one at the big investment banking firm in New York and the other one in Chicago and then I describe my son who lives with me at home, and people always say to me, I'm sorry.
And she said, your job is to tell people to stop saying that about my son.
SIMON: You close your book and begin to think, why do we use the term disabilities?
SHRIVER: You know, I think we'll look back and people will read what we've written in these days and listen to talks like this and they'll hear us say disability and they'll cringe. We are so limited in our understanding of ability still. I mean, the idea of intellectual disability comes from the construct that intellect is one-dimensional. We already know that there are multiple intelligences, we just haven't discovered that many of them. Maybe we know about eight or 10 or 12, but my guess is there are a thousand so I love the idea of thinking of a world of different abilities - I use the word diffabilities, some folks don't like it, but I think it invites us to rethink.
SIMON: I tried it. Spell Check won't accept it.
SHRIVER: Spell Check doesn't accept it. I know, my editor tried to correct it many times in the book. I said, please - just trust me, leave it in. I think the horizon of finding what matters most will impart, for all of us, lead to the discovery of a great, great array of gifts among the human family and a much bigger appreciation for the gifts that different kinds of people bring.
I hope that all of our players can have such moments this season. I look forward to seeing you at the distribution of uniforms, and on Opening Day - remember that it is only 97 days until Opening Day!
P.S. Please send back the registration form as soon as possible. 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. For any special requests pertaining to uniforms, please contact me as soon as possible via email at email@example.com.
P.P.S. If your child did not get his or her Challenger anniversary hoodie or trophy from last season, please let me know that as well, since I have all of them; I will also bring them to uniform distribution day in April before the start of the season, or make other arrangements with you.
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 Stan Jaskiewicz at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 215-241-8866. 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."