Saturday, June 24, 2017

• Little League Challenger Division

Play Ball!
I've been around Little League since I was nine years old back in the 1970s. Played Little League until the age of 12, then Pony League, and some high school ball. I coached my kids' teams from 1993 through 2003 and never heard of the Challenger Division until this year, when Wildomar Little League was chosen as the host league for this year's Division 28 all-star games.
The players were introduced before the game, and gave high fives to VIPS at the center of the field before the game started. From left to right, WLL President Chad Hilzer, VFW Post 1508 Mike Sheehan, Wildomar City Councilmember Bridgette Moore and umpire Kenny Ballard.
Apologies upfront. I don't have the names of any of the players, and though about half the players were girls, I didn't get many photos of them. I wish I could have gotten good pictures of all the players, maybe next year. ☺
Taking the pitch for ball one... even though balls and strikes weren't counted.☺
The games are not like typical Little League games in that they are only two innings, where everyone bats and runs (even if they get out), and end up scoring too. 
Getting a few reminders before batting.
The local Challenger Division was started in Menefee six years ago. Two years ago it was decided to make the division district wide. 
A little assistance from player buddies on the way to first base.
Originally they had twelve players in the first season. It's grown to the point that this season there were 62 players. 
Some of the players needed more assistance than others.
Players are from all seven of the local Little Leagues in the area: Lake Elsinore, Temescal Canyon, Wildomar, Canyon Lake, Menifee, Murrieta and Temecula. 
Putting the ball in play with a runner on third.
There are some players that come from as far away as Moreno Valley, Hemet and from other areas too. The division is starting to grow with each successive season. 
Coming home to score.
They play an average of about twelve games a season. The games are two innings long and last about an hour. The foul lines aren't strictly enforced. A lot depends on the batter's ability. If they have a more difficult time hitting the ball, a lot more leeway is granted to them. Others, that are more confident with the bat, have more traditional foul lines.
Keeping his eye on the ball as he's about to take a swing.

They didn't keep track of balls and strikes, and the pitcher (one of the coaches) would adjust his style and distance depending on the batter. Sometimes he'd be just a few feet away while tossing the ball underhand. Other times he'd be back about twenty-five or thirty feet tossing the ball overhand.
Tossing the ball back in to the pitcher.
Some of the players hit the ball harder than others. For those that hit it back to the pitcher, he'd shovel it with his glove to get it to the fielders. 
The ball gets sent down the third base line.

There were "player buddies" on the field to help the kids keep focused, and to protect them from the occasional well struck ball.
This Angel hitter gets ready to swat this pitch.
A couple of balls got all the way to the outfield, and still the play was to first base. There were a few times that a solid fielding play was made on both ends of a grounder, but the runner remained on the base even if they would have been out in a game played by traditional rules. 
Bridgette Moore was one of the "player buddies" and was stationed out in right field.

During the season there were four teams, but for today's All-Star Game, they combined them into two teams so that the could play one game instead of two. It was the Angels vs. the Dodgers, perfect for SoCal teams.
Just before the moment of contact.

There is an older division and a younger division. 

The players are not separated by age only, but also by ability. Sometimes a younger player will be placed with the older kids if their skill level makes them a mismatch with the other players their age. It's as much about enjoying the experience as it is keeping the kids safe.
These two players were enjoying their time in the field. Their playful interaction reminded my of my son's little dances that he'd do during games when he was their age. ☺

While talking to Amy Frahn about the Challenger Division (she's Vice President of District 28 Challenger Division, and attached to Menifee Valley Little League) I asked her about the fees to play.
Gotta love wearing baseball pants old school. Reminds me of the time I'd forgotten my baseball pants at home, for a beer league game in 1999, and had to wear my 12 year old son's pants one game. 
She told me that there are no fees charged to play, and that they rely on their sponsors and donations to fund the division. All seven of the leagues in District 28 donate a portion of their registration fees to the Challenger Division.
The anticipation.
If you are so inspired as to want to sponsor the Challenger Division, or just donate some funds to it, be sure to contact them by email, or visit their FaceBook page LINKSuch donations are tax deductible. They are a non profit and have all the proper forms that you'll need.

BTW, you don't have to be a donor to visit their FaceBook page and give them a like. LINK 
I nominate this player for "best form". What pitcher wouldn't be intimidated by that serious look on his face? Watch out Corey Seager, this guy's gunning for your spot in the line up.

What an enjoyable game to be at. Sometimes baseball is just about fun, where pressure doesn't enter the picture. A misplayed grounder isn't a big deal, and the kids are all smiles after the game no matter how many runs actually were scored.
A group shot after the game.

CR&R, DeJongs Dairy and Caring Hearts helped sponsor today's game. 
•          •          •
The smile on my face doesn't mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I have and what I've been blessed with. I choose to be happy.
– Unknown

Wildomar Rap has long understood that happiness is a choice. Circumstances can be dire or unpleasant at times, but they don't control a person's basic nature.


  1. Did any of the children get to use the Freedom Swing that so graces our premier park.

    1. I'll take it that you were actually asking if it was opened and available, and not whether is was used or not. Fair enough question. I didn't go to that side of the park, but it sure does seem like a natural enough thought to have such a park feature readily available when it's known that many kids in wheelchairs were going to be there.

      I'm not a big fan of symbolism over substance, and that swing has proven itself to be of little actual value to anyone.


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