It’s a warm sunny Saturday in late spring, and the young players gather on the field. Today, they’ll swing bats, run bases, field balls, and chat and laugh with their friends in the dugout. Pretty ordinary. Pretty much what thousands of other kids around the country will do that day, and that’s what makes it so extraordinary.
For the last 10 years, the Mason Challenger League has given kids and young adults with physical and developmental disabilities the chance to play baseball. Since it started, the Mason Challenger League has grown from 30 to more than 100 players. It even had 16 players go to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania this past August. Players enjoyed a send-off parade in Mason, with cheering fans lining the streets, a drumline and mascots from the Cincinnati Reds.
“It was an amazing experience and a lot of them will never forget it,” says Jen Christmas who serves on the board as the Marketing and Public Relations Director for the Challenger League.
It was a dream come true, but the Challenger League has another dream in the works that would extend to all its players. It started in 2019 when the City of Mason approached the league with an idea.
“They said we have room here in Makino Park, and we’d like to build two ball fields. Will you sit down with us and tell us what would be your dream?” explains Mason Challenger League Board President Susan Murdock. “They asked, ‘What would make these the ultimate ball fields for your players?’”
If the league would help with the fundraising, the city would build its field of dreams.
What would be the perfect ball field for the Challenger League’s players? First, it would have synthetic turf instead of grass, so after it rained the field wouldn’t develop divots, which can be a trip hazard. The bases would be painted on the turf, which makes it easier for everyone to move around the field. The dugouts would be extra wide to allow for mobility devices and baseball equipment and have segmented benches, so all the teammates could sit together.
“What also makes the baseball field special is even though they're designed to remove some of the barriers we have faced on typical fields, typical kids can come and play on these fields, and they'll just think they're really awesome fields,” Susan shares.
“The adaptive ball fields would benefit our child by giving her a chance to play on a field like all kids do,” says Challenger League mom, Dawn Koesters.
With about $1.8 million already raised to build the adaptive fields, the league needs about $300,000 more to reach its $2.1 million goal. The City of Mason has already put the project out to bid with the goal to build in 2023.
For Melissa Schaedig’s daughter, Hannah, the “countdown to the next week’s game” starts on Sundays. Dedicated adaptive fields could help ensure that players can go out and play the game they look forward to every week in May and June.
Jen talks about her 15-year-old son who’s been in the league for seven years, “He plays on a Saturday and goes to school on a Monday. ‘Hey, what did you do over the weekend?’ ‘Oh, I had a baseball game,’—just like everybody else.”
Ultimately, that’s the goal of the Challenger League, to give kids and young adults with disabilities the chance to experience the joy of the game just like a typical kid. If you’d like to pitch in on fundraising this holiday season, visit MasonChallengerAdaptiveFields.com.
“The adaptive ball fields would benefit our child by giving her a chance to play on a field like all kids do.” - Challenger League mom, Dawn Koesters.