With America’s favorite pastime just around the corner, dozens of special needs children, joined by even more volunteers, gathered Saturday morning (Feb. 2) at Morgan Hill Park to swing for the fences.
The event was part of Temecula Valley American Little League’s goal to engage kids of every age, stage and ability in the game of baseball.
“We’re really wanting this to be an effort with the entire community,” said TVALL’s Director of Special Needs Baseball or Challenger program Phil Brown.
Brown said that the goal of Challenger is to give area special needs children between the ages of 4 and 19 the chance to hit, catch and throw the baseball with the help of watchful guardians.
Saturday’s helpers included residents, student volunteers from Great Oak and Temecula Valley high schools and St. Jeanne’s, Little League board members, coaches with Temecula Youth Baseball, local Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 39 (MAG-39) and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) from Camp Pendleton, the SoCal 12U Hitmen — a Temecula-based travel baseball club – and Great Oak High School’s Junior Varsity baseball team.
Photo gallery courtesy of Daniel Lane:
“We heard the call and decided to come out and learn about the program,” said Great Oak High School JV assistant baseball coach Reuben Villar.
“As a team, we decided that this would be a great opportunity for our kids to learn and to reach out to these (special needs) kids,” Villar said.
With nearly 80 kids registered for this spring’s Challenger program, Brown said that more support and volunteers will be needed to keep up with the young new gamers.
Temecula Valley American Little League gallery (Daniel Lane/SWRNN):
“My vision is that this will be a community-wide effort to include all baseball affiliations, schools and any organization who wants to be a part of making the game of baseball accessible to all children,” Brown said.
Brown added that the event held on Saturday was designed to give parents of special needs kids the chance to see what a typical practice will look like during the season.
Games will be played from 8 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays at Temeku Hills Park in Temecula.
Additionally, Brown said that he hopes local businesses will also step up to the plate with sponsorship support.
Brown said of his vision: “The main message that we hope to get out there is that we are hoping the community will join us in helping these kids learn to love baseball.”
To learn more or to inquire about volunteer or sponsorship opportunities, visit www.tvall.org.
Kerri S. Mabee is managing editor of Southwest Riverside News Network. Reach her at email@example.com.