America’s favorite pastime just got more exciting for dozens of special needs sluggers taking part in Menifee Valley Little League this spring.
That’s because the popular youth baseball league has expanded its program to include a Challenger division for special needs children of every age and ability.
“This is our inaugural Challenger season. Menifee had tried a similar program in 2002, I think. But, it fell by the wayside,’ said Menifee Valley Little League Information Officer Amy Frahn.
Frahn said that Menifee’s new Challenger division has been a hit with residents.
“We have 28 kids (signed up) so far, enough for three teams. Everyone is so excited,” Frahn said.
According to Frahn, players range in age from 4 to 30 years old — some in wheel chairs, with walkers or suffering with Down Syndrome.
The Challengers will be paired with other players from the league ages 12-14 who will stand alongside them to coach and cheer them on.
“I think the buddies are more excited than the (Challengers) are,” Frahn said, laughing. “This way the parents can sit back and watch all of the kids play.”
Frahn’s initial efforts to grow the division have successful enough to earn her the duties as a District 28 Challenger division representative to help other leagues such as Lake Elsinore, Wildomar and Temecula, build similar programs.
Each of the eight leagues in District 28 has been very receptive to the program, she said.
Frahn said that Menifee Valley Little League is fully behind the effort and is already making plans to take part in Mt. San Jacinto College’s annual Buddy Walk in support of Down Syndrome residents on Oct. 13.
Frahn said: “It’s such a huge need for these kids to interact in this way. And everyone in our community is getting involved. It’s become a community effort.”
Kerri S. Mabee can be reached at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @kerrimabee.