A new level of Cranbrook baseball officially began on Thursday, May 10 with the inaugural night of Challenger Baseball being held at Moir Centennial Park.
The Cranbrook Minor Ball Association announced the introduction of ‘Challenger’ in November and the program — which allows children with cognitive or physical disabilities the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of playing baseball, in an environment that caters to them — was a rousing success on day one with 14 Challenger athletes enjoying getting outside and taking part in various activities along with numerous volunteers and instructors.
According to the CMBA’s director of baseball and coach development, Marquis Christian, who was instrumental in bringing the ‘Challenger’ concept to the area, the night was a huge success.
“It’s blown expectations out of the water,” Christian said. “We were [so] happy to have everyone out on the field. We didn’t know quite what to expect and to have stations and the kids running around with their buddies, it was amazing and very heartwarming, to tell you the truth.”
During the two-hour session, the athletes and their ‘buddies’ — volunteers who assisted them in any way required — went through a variety of different drills and games, before assembling for one big game of baseball. While no score was kept, each participant was treated like every other player in the conventional baseball program and at the end of the night, they were all winners.
The Toronto Blue Jays ‘Jays Care Foundation’ provided all the uniforms and equipment for the ‘Challenger’ athletes and their buddies, and according to Christian have been a huge help in getting the program off the ground.
“Jays Care have been unbelievable, [they] provided all the equipment [and] their support has been overwhelming,” he said. “They’ve reached out many times to make sure we’re going in the right direction and I can’t say enough about [them].”
Challenger Baseball is set to take place every Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 until mid-June and Christian says that based on the first night, the athletes seem set to return every week.
“I think they just love being out with their peers and having fun out in the ballpark, being part of a team,” he said. “Being assembled with great athletes that are like-minded, it’s awesome to see.
Those interested in finding out more about ‘Challenger Baseball’ are asked to contact Cranbrook Minor Ball Association at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow the Cranbrook Minor Ball Association on Facebook and visit www.cranbrookminorball.net.