Thursday, June 14, 2012

Challengers Cup a hit with special needs kids

From:



BIG SWING—Jack Shelton, 6, smacks the ball during a June 2 game between two teams made up of players with special needs. Organizers of the inaugural Challengers Cup, as it was dubbed, hope to make it an annual tournament. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers BIG SWING—Jack Shelton, 6, smacks the ball during a June 2 game between two teams made up of players with special needs. Organizers of the inaugural Challengers Cup, as it was dubbed, hope to make it an annual tournament. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn NewspapersBy Dashiell Young-Saver

Two challenger and VIP teams—baseball squads made up of players with special needs— from Newbury Park PONY Baseball and Conejo Valley Little League held the inaugural Challengers Cup on June 2.
The cup was the second instance of interleague play between Conejo Valley challenger and VIP teams in what the coaches and parents hope will develop into a full tournament between special needs teams from Agoura, Camarillo, Simi Valley and the rest of the area.
“We are planning to unite the parents, population and resources for kids with special needs through baseball,” said Vincent Shelton, the event’s organizer.
Shelton has two sons, one of whom, Vincent Jr., has played on the Conejo Valley Little League Challenger team since 2004.


‘GO! GO!’—Jack Jankowski, 12, of Moorpark helps David Murasky, 6, run to first base after hitting the ball during the first Challengers Cup game on June 2. Many of the players from the challenger and VIP teams had a “buddy” who accompanied them to the plate. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers ‘GO! GO!’—Jack Jankowski, 12, of Moorpark helps David Murasky, 6, run to first base after hitting the ball during the first Challengers Cup game on June 2. Many of the players from the challenger and VIP teams had a “buddy” who accompanied them to the plate. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers“This program will help to give the kids awareness to the world around them and spread awareness of kids with special needs in the community,” he said.
The NPPB VIP Vipers hosted the CVLL Challengers (a composite of the two CVLL challenger teams—the Dodger and Giants) at the Dos Vientos Playfi elds.
The two teams played each other last year at Fiore Fields as an informal exhibition.
Challenger and VIP teams normally play with teams from the mainstream leagues, but during the Challengers Cup they competed alongside other kids with disabilities that included autism, Asperger’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and others. In addition, each player was announced by name and given special jerseys as well as friendship bracelets provided by Hook Links, one of the event’s sponsors.
“The typical teams hold back a little bit when playing the challenger teams,” said Linda Hutchings. She is the mother of Ian, a 10-year-old player for the Challengers with fragile X syndrome. “It is nice to be able to compete with typical kids, but it’s also nice to be able to compete against kids that are in a similar situation as them.”
As with most challenger and VIP games, the teams played two innings and batted around the order each time without keeping score.
Both teams have a wide age range—from 6 to 20. Skill level varies highly as well, so Boy Scouts, Boys Team Charity members, high school students and other volunteers accompanied many of the players on the field and at bat.
“One of the things that is cool for these guys is that they get to have a regular baseball player as their buddy . . . and there is interaction and a friendship that is developed,” said Vipers coach Todd Taylor.
Taylor used to be the president of NPPB before stepping down and forming the VIP league with his two sons in 2005. The opposing coach, Tom Jankowski, has been coaching challenger teams for more than 20 years and runs the CVLL Challenger league. Neither coach has a child with special needs.
According to Jankowski and Taylor, the challenger and VIP leagues and the game of baseball are beneficial to both the players and parents, which is why they choose to coach these teams year after year.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids with special needs to get to see other kids from their schools. The sport is great, but the social aspect of it, being able to communicate and form bonds, is really what I think makes it great for the kids,” Jankowski said.
Many of the parents agree.
“(Ian) absolutely loves it,” Hutchings said. “It’s great for him because it gives him a chance to play, have fun and be competitive like his peers, whereas if he played on a normal team he wouldn’t have a chance to hit.”

second

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.