Danielle Durrance, a 10th grader at Cave Spring High School, made winding up and throwing a baseball from a wheelchair look pretty easy while she participated in the first annual Salem Red Sox Challenger Baseball Clinic, tossing a ball around with No. 12 catcher Christian Vazquez.
Jordan Eason of Salem, who throws a mean fly ball, did a good job of playing on the Salem Sox outfield for the morning, too – he and Durrance were just two of more than 70 kids from Challenger baseball teams who practiced pitching, hitting, throwing, and catching with the whole team of Salem Sox Minor Leaguers Saturday, June 16.
The Challenger League Baseball District 12, started by Sid Witt Jr. and his father, Sid Witt Sr. of Salem, is a league for children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities. The league started with eight players in 1989 and is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year.
This year, there are 6 teams in the Roanoke Valley (each with 15 players), one team in Clifton Forge, and almost two teams in Franklin County – totaling well over 100 athletes.
The game is played without strikes, outs, or losers: everybody is a winner, and everybody gets to play. Challenges range from down syndrome to cerebral palsy to just about any limiting condition that a kid might have. Some of the less mobile or functioning kids might need buddies or parents to help them bat or go ’round the bases, but others are independent line drivers with lots of their own ability.
“Next year we will offer it to more kids, mentally or physically handicapped, who might not participate in the Challenger baseball league already,” said event organizer Cathy Kropff with Bulldog Field Equipment, a Roanoke business. Kropff also organized four successful Challenger Clinics while working with the New York Yankees’ Class AA minor league affiliate in New York and Connecticut.
Anyone interested in helping or donating to the league, or is interested in attending a game should visit www.roanokevalleychallenger.org or contact Sid Witt Jr. at 309-6274 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.