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Challenger leagues call for ‘buddies’

Need volunteers to assist players with special needs

Published: Sunday, April 13, 2014 11:45 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 14, 2014 8:54 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Shaw Media file photo)
Challenger Little League buddy Brogan Piunicka (right), 10, helps Marcus DeLeon, 9, put on a helmut May 29, 2012, at Merryman Fields in Woodstock. Woodstock Challenger Little League and McHenry Baseball Association’s Challenger Baseball are seeking volunteers interested in being paired with specific special needs players throughout the season.

McHenry County’s two avenues for special needs little leaguers are asking for a few more buddies to help in the field and along the base paths.

Woodstock Challenger Little League and McHenry Baseball Association’s Challenger Baseball are seeking volunteers interested in being paired with specific special needs players throughout the season.

Challenger leagues are built to allow players with varying disabilities – physical and mental – to experience little league baseball. Their partners, termed “buddies” and ranging in age from youngsters to grandmothers, help out as much or as little as needed throughout each game.

By the end of the year, buddies can end up taking away as much from the experience as the players.

“Just seeing the way that ... their attitude changes and their outlooks change working with the kids is tremendous,” said Jason Todd, Challenger VP for McHenry Baseball.

McHenry started its challenger league a year ago with 19 players. Todd said that the idea, in part, was to give full-league players an avenue to give something back from baseball that they’ve been getting for years.

“Pretty much every [buddy] that we had last year has come back to do it this year,” he said.

But with enrollment already up to about 32 players this year, the league is short a few buddies.

Woodstock, which started the county’s first Challenger league in 2012, is anticipating they will have a similar issue, said Rochelle Donahue, Challenger league vice president.

The league has enough buddies to match the 32 players currently signed up, but a final-week push in league enrollment would leave them short.

“Historically, I get five or six players signed up the last week,” Donahue said. “So I could always use extra buddies.”

Donahue added that the unpredictable schedules of many teen buddies makes it a good idea to have some extras around, just in case.

Woodstock Challenger kicks off with a meet and greet Sunday, with the first game scheduled for May 4.

McHenry Challenger starts on May 3.

To sign up

For Woodstock Challenger Little League, visit www.woodstocklittleleague.com for more information or contact Rochelle Donahue at rochelledonahue@comcast.net.

For McHenry’s Challenger League, visit www.mchenrybaseball.com for more information or contact Jason Todd at jtodd446@yahoo.com.

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