GOLETA, Calif. - Special needs players involved with the beloved Challengers division are reacting to new guidelines announced this past weekend.
Dos Pueblos Little League, which oversees the program, released a public statement which revealed that it is bringing the popular program back this Spring.
Late last year, the league said it was forced to bench the division for "compliance" issues. (Parents of special needs Challengers' players said they have not been told exactly when or how they fell out of compliance.)
For more than a decade, special needs students between the age of four to 22 were eligible to play. The newly released guidelines now restrict the top age to 14, in keeping with national Little League guidelines.
Ryan, a 17-year-old senior at Dos Pueblos High School, said he's played with the Challengers since he was five and is "bummed" to hear that he's too old for the new Spring league.
"The best part of baseball, I've been hitting home runs and getting all the balls from first base to second base," Ryan told reporter, Beth Farnsworth. "It's actually my favorite thing to do."
Ryan Harrington, Executive Director of the Foundation for Girsh Park, emailed Farnsworth the following statement:
"The Foundation for Girsh Park is very pleased to hear that Dos Pueblos Little League (DPLL) will be running the youth Challengers Division this season. It will be exciting to have the children back on the fields playing baseball next month. We also recognize that there is a need for an adaptive baseball or softball program for children older than 14, as well as young adults. We encourage our local non-profit community to form new programs through collaboration in order to fulfill this need. There are several entities that we have heard from that are willing to volunteer time and resources. Girsh Park will happily offer field space for such an endeavor to ensure that everyone has a place to play."
Meanwhile, parents of the older Challengers players are pursing alternative options for inclusive baseball programs, as they feel that model is so enriching to children, teens and young adults of all abilities.
For more information on DPLL Challengers, click here: http://www.dpll.net/Page.asp?n=154368&org=DPLL