In my head I’m singing the “its peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter jelly time” maybe you know this song or maybe you think I’m a bit nuts. Either way I’m excited to say, “its Challenger baseball time, Challenger baseball time!” Most of The Herron Nest audience should know that George and I are coaches this year for the Cardinals team in the Challenger Baseball League. For those who don’t know what the blazes I’m talking about, Challenger Baseball is a league dedicated to kids with special needs to ensure that they get to enjoy baseball just like all the other kids. Because of my brother Brian my family has been involved with the Challenger league for 15 years and 4 years ago Matt and I were asked to take on our own team. We both sort of thought in the back of our minds that we would take on a more important role in Challenger but never guessed we would be coaching our own team and so quickly. We had to jump on this opportunity.
The Cardinals team has been amazing, I truly look forward to each spring to see all their smiling faces. Who couldn’t love these faces? We have had some “core” players that have played on our team since year one and watching each kid grow from year to year and day to day within the season is remarkable. I remember when Landon (middle kid in picture above) had his first hit all by himself. WOW! I think I completely lost control and forgot that I was supposed to direct him to first base, instead I had tears welled up in my eyes and I just wanted to run and grab him to give him a big hug.
There are so many times where I think I’m teaching the kids various skills for baseball and then it always ends up that I leave the game and the season with not only learning from the kids but having such a huge take-away for my own life. I honestly want to be a better person after spending an hour on the baseball field with my team. The kids are some of my best teachers. I know that after each game last year George and I spent the next hour or two continuously talking about each kid and how this one ran so much faster or that one had such a great hit.
Challenger has meant so much to my family and to me and I have especially cherished my time coaching for many reasons. One has to be the relationship and bond created between Matt and myself. Could anyone that knew us growing up believe that Matt and I could coach a team together??? I think 99.9% of you would say no way. Matt and I couldn’t even sit next to each other in a car for longer than two minutes before we started bickering and fighting. Now look at us! I won’t lie, there are still times when he drives me crazy on the field but he really is a great coach and the kids absolutely love him.
This year our “official” coach roster will include Matt, George and myself with two of the best helpers and cheerleaders, Jami and Mason. I can’t wait to see Mason with a little Cardinals shirt and hat on and I’m sure the kids and parents will want to love all over him. Our first practice is this coming Wednesday and I can’t wait to see all the players. We have 4 new players this year and 11 returning from last year. Our team is becoming one big family and I hope that we can continue to grow up together as I have with Brian’s team, The Rockies.
If you are interested in attending a game or two, please don’t hesitate to ask me. I’m sure the kids would love to see more fans in the cheering section and the more awareness about the league the better. If you are looking for other ways to get involved you can check out the lovely website that was donated by my company, US Digital Partners. Our golf outing will be held at the Beckett Ridge Country Club on May 22nd (we are up to 52 golfers, 92 openings still available) and we are looking for golfers (good or bad!) and sponsorships.
As one of our players, Becky, would scream at the top of her lungs: