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Baseball for Athletes with Disabilities: Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball

The Challenger Baseball program gives players of all abilities across Canada the chance to learn the sport of baseball. Players enjoy being part of a team while gaining individual skills. Here, we highlight a league in London, Ontario, the Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball program.

Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball

The Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball program is a league for players with physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities in London, Ontario. Six teams play at the Byron Optimist Sports Complex on Sunday evenings from mid-May until the end of July every year. Players range in age from six-year-olds to adults. A non-disabled “buddy”, often a friend or family member, accompanies each player onto the field.

Equipment

The league provides most of the equipment players need, including:

  • Traditional baseballs
  • Beeping baseballs
  • Bats
  • Helmets for players up to bat
  • Team shirts and baseball caps

However, players and buddies bring their own baseball gloves. In addition, players may choose to bring their own bats and helmets.

The Game

Pitchers quickly learn about each player’s abilities and batting style at the beginning of each season. Some players hit a traditional baseball while others hit a large baseball that beeps so that players can hear where it is. Some players wheel themselves around the bases while their buddies run beside them. Others run with their buddies, who provide sighted guide. Players and buddies stand together in the outfield. Buddies catch balls when players cannot reach or hear them, then toss them to the players. Players call out to tell each other where to aim the ball or let each other know that the ball is coming toward them.

Players cheer for their teammates and gather for a team cheer at the end of every game. They also cheer for the other team and shake hands with that team’s players. The league does not keep score.

The Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball Program allows every player to enjoy learning the sport and be physically active with friends.