Challenger Baseball celebrates 20 years

Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2013, 10:11 pm
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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com
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 molinechallengerleague.com or you can contact Pam Swim at rpswim@mchsi.com or 786-3097.

Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or jmarx@qconline.com.


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)