By: Heather Taylor—
On Tuesday evenings in September, the Yorktown Sports Park CIO Field finds the stands full, crowds cheering, and athletes enjoying the spotlight. A two-inning, Teeball-style game where no one keeps score, are games among the most important played at the complex each year. These games are Yorktown JAA’s Challenge League.
Entering its third season, the Challenge League offers special needs children ages 4-18, (or up to age 22 if still in school), the opportunity to play on a baseball team. Founded by Yorktown JAA, and Mark Taylor. Taylor is also the father of a special needs child. The league was created to provide a safe environment for special needs children to enjoy what many other children experience each summer.
“We want every child to experience the thrill of putting on a uniform, hitting a ball, running the bases, and being part of a team,” said Taylor. “As the parent of a special needs child, I understand how being part of a team wasn’t possible for many children. So, we created Challenge League to change that.”
The experience has been positive not only for the players, but also the volunteers. A “buddy” is matched with each player to ensure their safety, and help guide them through the game. The result has been both heart-warming and inspirational. Players ages 11+ and adults are welcome as buddies.
“The community support has been overwhelming,” said Joe Butts, Yorktown JAA league president. “Most of the buddies play baseball, or softball, and range from middle-school to Ball State University players. They truly enjoy sharing their love of the game with a special needs athlete and everyone leaves feeling inspired.”
This year’s games will be played on September 8, 15, 22 and 29. Spectators are encouraged to attend and cheer on the athletes who often engage in endearing antics as they cross home plate. The players enjoy their moment in the spotlight, and the roar of the crowd.
Following the September 29 game, there will be an awards ceremony, and pizza party for players, and families.
Everyone is welcome to participate, players do not need to live in the Yorktown Little League district. To register, visit www.yorktownjaa.org. A $25 registration fee per player includes a hat and shirt. Scholarships are also available, for more information on scholarships, inquire by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Those interested in volunteering, or making a donation toward scholarships, or the pizza party may email: email@example.com, or contact Mark Taylor at 765-730-3026.