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Challenger baseball aids kids with disabilities PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jordan Cravens Sentinel Staff Writer   
Saturday, 22 June 2013 00:56
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Stacee Shultz (right), a coach for the Jets Little League team, helps Jason Beiser (left), 11, of East Toledo with his bat during a practice at Woodlands Park in Perrysburg, Ohio. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG ­— In the Greater Toledo Challenger Little League, it’s not about who collects the most hits, scores the most runs or even who the winner is.
“It’s really for the fun of it and for the kids to do what makes them happy,” said coach Brian Shultz, of Pemberville. “Every kid bats, every kid scores and no score is kept.”
Challenger Little League was created in 1989 as a division of Little League. The league is for ages 4 and up and designated for youth with mental or physical disabilities.
The Greater Toledo league started in 1990. It provides youth as far north as Michigan and as far south as Findlay the opportunity to play. The league has seven teams with about 95 participants.
Around 20 Wood County youth participate in the league and organizers are looking to add members to the rosters. Most of the Wood County players are dispersed among two teams which practice in Perrysburg: the Jets and the Jaguars.
Some kids in the league use a wheelchair, others have autism or diabetes. One girl in the league who is blind relies on her dad to tell her when to swing.
Mandi Canby, of Bowling Green, signed up her daughter, 8-year-old Embeth, for a second season this summer.
“She had played T-ball before and it  was kind of frustrating,” Canby said.
This league, however, is more laid back.
“They allow the kids to be individuals and to express themselves how they want to,” she said. “Sports in these days seem to be so much about winning and not playing. It’s nice to see the kids just play.”
Claudine Bernardo, of Perrysburg, signed up her son, Ryan, 9, to play in the league this summer. It’s his first time playing a team sport.
“Ryan has autism and we wanted to help him improve on his social skills and at the same time give him the opportunity to do the things all kids do,” Bernardo said. “We thought this would be a good environment for him to start.”
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Chloe Lanning (left) and her brother Brandon Lanning (second from left) of Weston keep an eye out for a ball with Claudine Bernardo (right) of Perrysburg as her son Ryan Bernardo (second from right) and Barley, a helper dog (left) look off during a Jets Little League practice
During the team’s practice Wednesday at Woodlands Park in Perrysburg, Ryan sported a Toledo Mud Hens ball cap and played the field as his fellow teammates took batting practice.
“That is one of the neat things about this league, being able to see the kids develop and be more social,” said Stacee Shultz, Brian’s wife and a coach for the Jets.
The teams play 10 to 12  league games against one another at Rolf Park in Maumee. They also participate in a state tournament each summer. This year, the teams will travel to Butler County to compete against teams from 11 districts throughout the state.
Georgianna Lanning, of Weston, is a coach for the Jaguars squad. Her son Brandon, who uses a wheelchair, is in his ninth season in the league.
Lanning said the league is not only enriching for the kids, but also for the parents.
“You almost feel like you are in a support group for parents, too,” she said.
To join, the registration fee is $30
“No child is turned away,” Brian Shultz said. “If they can’t afford it, we will pay for them.”
Challenger Baseball will also be forming adult leagues in August.
Beginning August. 19, the “bunters” league for those ages 16 and up will begin. The “heavy hitters” league kicks off on Aug. 21 for the same age group. Games are played at Miracle Field at 2100 Tracy Road, Northwood. The league will run every Monday and Wednesday through September.
For more information, contact league president Anileda Godfrey at (419) 467-6701.
Last Updated on Saturday, 22 June 2013 08:07
 

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