One of Maricopa’s lesser-known baseball divisions is closing out its season with a special game Saturday.
Maricopa Little League’s 2017 Challenger Division series will end Nov. 18 in an evening “under the lights” at Pacana Park, league vice president Leslie Isetta said.
Challengers are a subdivision of Little League that allows young people facing physical or mental challenges an opportunity to get dirty and play some baseball, Isetta said.
First established in 1989, the Challenger Division is a coed division that accepts players as young as 4 and as old as 22, if they are still enrolled in school.
Maricopa Little League is not so stringent when it comes to the admission in the Challengers Division.
“We think’s it’s important for every child to have something to do, some sport to play,” Isetta said.
There really is only one sports team in Maricopa that embraces young people with special needs, she said, and the Challengers Division is it. Even in the Challengers Division, the participation is spread rather thin, she said, so most games are more like scrimmages.
Teams can have as many as 15-20 players, according to their website, and here’s how it all works.
The team is essentially split into an offense and a defense, and each player has a chance to bat.
“The side is retired when the offense has batted through the roster, or when a predetermined number of runs have been scored, or when three outs are recorded,” the website states.
Usually it’s tee-ball rules, Isetta said, but if there is someone capable of receiving a pitch, someone will throw the ball.
Players are accompanied by other, older players the league calls Challenger Buddies. Their job is to help the Challenger players on the field by showing them how to throw and where to throw it to, Isetta said.
To keep things light, the league typically doesn’t keep score, and to keep help them feel more a part of the league, they all wear the same uniforms, patches and safety gear, she said.
It’s about teaching them the basics of the sport and how to be a team player and support each other, Isetta said. But, really, it’s about inclusion.
“The whole idea is to give them an opportunity to get out there and play an actual game,” Isetta said.
Saturday at 5:30 p.m. the Challengers will meet for their last game of 2017, and this game will have a bit more jazz to it.
“We want to give them a game under the lights,” Isetta said. “Playing a game is fun, but as soon as those lights go on, for some reason it just feels a little bit more special.”
Little League Collects for F.O.R. Maricopa
Every item you donate will earn 1 raffle ticket for a chance to win a baseball-themed gift basket. Please bring donations to the Board tables set up between fields 3 and 4 at Copper Sky, during any of the games Saturday. The raffle drawing will be held after the final ballgame – Challengers Under the Lights (game begins at 5:30 p.m.).
F.O.R. Maricopa has been serving our community since 2007 and the following is a list of their most needed items:
Canned Tuna/Chicken or Beef
Packaged Dinners-Hamburger/Tuna Helper