Challenger Baseball celebrates 20 years

Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2013, 10:11 pm
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By John Marx,
In my free time, I coach.

I see athletes of all shapes, sizes, abilities and backgrounds. At times, coaching can be a grind; it's the nature of the beast when dealing with high school baseball and football players.

When frustration sets in or my perspective gets bent in the wrong direction, I head to Moline's Riverside or Davenport's Modern Woodmen parks for a refresher course in appreciation.
I call it my "Challenger-League fix.'' To steal from the movie "Cool Hand Luke,'' "It gets my mind right.''

There I'll watch athletes from age 5 play baseball for the joy that is the game. No whining, no complaining, no politics and no parents living vicariously through Jimmy or Janet's athletic accomplishments.

Challenger Baseball is the greatest 90-minute-pick-me-up outside of time spent doing dad and son things with my boy. A healthy 9-year-old it should be noted, that faces no special-needs obstacles like Challenger players.

Challenger Baseball locally is celebrating 20 years this season. Little League Baseball formed the Challenger Division in 1988 for children with disabilities to play the sport of baseball. Rock Island's Mary Boehm started our local Challenger League in 1992.

Challenger Baseball affords every person the chance to participate in a structured athletic program, regardless of their age and/or ability.
Games are two innings with every player hitting twice and fielding twice. Score is not kept, and there is equipment to adapt the sport for any type of disability. Play goes from Sunday afternoons beginning the last weekend of April through the end of June (there is a break Memorial Day weekend). Everyone locally volunteers their time, and the 2013 season opens on April 28 at 1 p.m. The regular season ends with a pizza, pool party at Whitewater Junction on the last Sunday in June.
Every August (the 24th this year), The Great River Challenge takes place at Modern Woodmen Park. Challenger Baseball Leagues from Illinois go head-to-head with leagues from Iowa. The 1 p.m. event has become the event of the season for both leagues and for us outsiders who pencil in the date on our calendars months in advance.
If you are into athletes who play simply for the love and joy of the game, who gave it their all on every pitch, hit and run, then find a Challenger Sunday and watch. It will make you appreciate the players before you and -- if your priorities have taken a turn sideways -- put you back on the right path.

Disney World has nothing on Challenger-Baseball Sundays, for a day with these special athletes, coaches and families, is the happiest place on earth.

Happy birthday.

For Challenger League information, go to or you can contact Pam Swim at or 786-3097.

Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or


Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Col. H.F. Sickless informs us that there will be new organization of troops in this state under the call for more men.
1889 -- 125 years ago: James Normoyle arrived home after graduating from West Point with honors in the class of 1889. He was to report to Fort Brady, Mich., as second lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany and Austria refused an invitation of Sir Edward Grey to join Great Britain at a mediation conference.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Dr. William Mayo, the last of the three famous Mayo brother surgeons, died at the age of 78.
1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the biggest horse shows of the season was held yesterday at Hillandale Arena on Knoxville Road under the sponsorship of the Illowa Horsemen's Club.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Davenport is like a gigantic carnival this weekend with the Bix Arts Fest taking over 12 square blocks of the downtown area. A festive atmosphere prevailed Friday as thousands of people turned out to sample what the Arts Fest has to offer.

(More History)