In the Challenger League, all boys and girls who range from young youth to high school age and who have physical, mental, or developmental challenges are encouraged to come play. The entire UC High School baseball program comes out to help, from Varsity to JV to freshman, and are known as “buddies” to these Challenger players. “Usually we have enough kids where it’s two high school level kids to one Challenger kid,” said Frink. “They’ll play catch with them, show them techniques, and they will basically shadow them throughout the whole game.”
A few things that being a “buddy” entails during these games include helping the Challengers swing and helping them run around the bases. Some of the younger Challengers hit off of a tee, while some of the older ones do not. Once a Challenger gets a hit, the UC players then will guide them running to first base. As the next few plays happen, and as the game goes on, they will also guide the Challengers on when to run to second base, run to third base, and when to run to home plate.
Coach Frink and his players take pride in helping with this league, and he loves to see the relationships that form between his own players and the Challengers. “You get to see a different side of them,” said Frink. “The kids that I coach, they’re passionate about baseball, and the patience they have, and pride they have, just to be able to give to kids who are less fortunate, kids that don’t really know the game. It’s definitely a humbling experience for myself to see it.”
Michelle Martin, one of the mothers involved with the Challenger League, has two sons who play for UC High School, and another son, Luke, who used to play in the Challenger League. She used to be the Challenger V.P. Player Agent on the board for the league, before recently handing it off. “I just wanted the special needs players to be represented, and not forgotten,” said Martin. “Once he [Luke] started playing on this team when he was in 2nd grade, he’s developed a love for sports.”
Rob Dreher, the head coach for the Challenger team, has been involved with the league the last five or six years. He worked in special education for 11 years and was also the head coach of the baseball team at Clairemont High School for four years. “This is perfect for me,” said Dreher. “It’s a population of children I love to be with, and it’s baseball, something I’ve been involved with my whole life.”
Coach Frink and the UC baseball program typically commit themselves to three games a year, two that have already happened, and with the next being on Saturday, April 13 at Standley Recreation Center.
For more information on the Challenger League, visit www.scrippsranchll.org.