DeMOTTE — DeMotte Little League held its first ever Challenger Division game for differently-abled players last Saturday and the score was smiles for all. On May 4, 14 of the 25 players signed up played two innings wherein everyone got to bat, run the bases and play the field. The smiles, grins, fist-bumps and shouts of joy were infectious as a large crowd gathered to soak in the love.

The Little League Challenger Division was founded in 1989, and is Little League’s adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges. It accommodates players ages 4 to 18; or up to age 22 if still enrolled in school. There is a companion Senior League Challenger Division that accommodates players ages 15 and above with no maximum age.

Prior to the game, four of the challenger players lined up to each throw out ceremonial “first” pitches. The players then split into two groups with half getting ready to bat and half taking the field. In addition to their equipment, each and every player had two things with them – a smile and an able bodied “Buddy” who help, praised and guided them.

The team is sponsored by Grace Fellowship Church and coached by Jeremy Rayner. DeMotte Little League President Dan Beauchamp and several other board members were active participants in the game, as were many of the parents of the players.

The League is equipped to make the game of baseball and softball accessible to all and have different equipment on hand for each different ability, including “beeper” balls for visually-challenged players. Several players batted off tees but several more insisted that they receive a live pitch. All were accommodated.

The team, just like all of the other DLL teams has a full schedule this season and will play other challenger teams from Lowell, Lake of the Four Seasons and Dyer. All games are on Saturdays and the schedule can be found at www.demottelittleleague.com.

Little League Indiana District 1 Administrator Rich Arndt was in attendance. He is a driving force behind the expansion of Challenger teams.

“It used to be that these kids were left playing in the sand outside the diamond as their brothers or sister played ball,” said Arndt. “This puts them where they belong, included.”

He is an umpire instructor, as well, and when asked about the special rules, he related that Little League does have a rule book for the Challenger Division that is every bit as detailed as those for baseball and softball.

“The number one rule, however,” said Arndt, “is that the players have fun.”