Challenger League Day this weekend at Millbrook Park

June 19, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

District 11 Little League will participate in Challenger League Day at Millbrook Park, in New Boston, on Saturday, with a day packed with activities and special Challenger League games and the public dedication of a New Boston Little League mural.

“Challenger League is for any child with a disability throughout the area, that is from ages 5 to 22, or still in school. These are children that are not your typical children, that may not get to play baseball but they want to play baseball and this gives them the opportunity to do that,” said Mike Bell, from the Challenger League.

The Challenger League started within District 11 Little League in the 1980s, with only about 10 players. Today there are 45 kids in Scioto County and 15 more in Ironton playing on four teams. Last year, more than 350 Challenger League players from across Ohio converged for their state tournament at the Challenger League field in Wheelersburg. In additional to baseball, there is also a Challenger Basketball League in New Boston, and a Just For Fun bowling league.

“People tend to think, when you think about a child having a disability, they want to give your child limitations. They don’t realize what your child can do. This challenger baseball gives that child an opportunity to be a child and go out and play with other children on a regular baseball field with baseball equipment that every other child that plays baseball gets to play with also,” said Michelle King, of District 11 Little League.

Challenger League games begin at 11 a.m., with Rock Hill vs. SOMC, followed by the Kentucky Challenger vs. State Farm at noon.

“For these kids here, this is the big league,” Bell said.

At 1 p.m., the village and little league will dedicate a new mural portraying the 1960 New Boston Little League team that advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Va., and finished fifth in the entire world.

The 1960 New Boston team was the first from Ohio to advance to the World Series, after beating Portsmouth and playing Elyria for the state title. Then New Boston beat all other northern state teams for the regional championship to advance to the National Little League World Series. New Boston represented the northern United States in the Series, California represented the west, Texas represented the south, and Pennsylvania represented the east. Teams also played from Europe, Asia, Mexico, Canada, and Hawaii. Pennsylvania finally won the Series, but New Boston finished fifth in the entire world league.

“That is the only team from the district who has made it from this area, and to be fifth in the world, that speaks for itself,” said Don Rawlins, of District 11 Little League.

In honor of their achievement, a group of residents formed a committee to raise money to commission a mural on the press box at Millbrook Park. Artist Charlie Reed was first commissioned last summer to create the piece on the back of the baseball field press box facing the New Boston Stadium. In April, the job was handed over to Brent Woodard, of Lucasville, to complete. He started the project in April and has clocked about 30 hours before he finished on May 29.

Woodard will be at the dedication on Saturday, along with representatives from Little League and the village of New Boston, and several original members and trophies from the 1960 team. Local baseball legends Al Oliver and Gene Bennett are also scheduled to appear.

After the mural dedication will be the first and second round of Home Run Derby, beginning at 2 p.m. There is a $10 entry fee to compete.

“People around Scioto County talk about how good they are at baseball, and how good they are hitting; I’ve got some Challenger League kids that can hit a home run with a Challenger League baseball. Let’s see if they can do it,” Bell said.

Challenger League games then resume at 3 p.m. for Veterans Helping Veterans vs. Genesis, and a special Coaches Game at 4 p.m. The day concludes with the top five Home Run Derby contestants competing in the final round at 5 p.m. The third place winner will receive 10 percent of the entry fees; second place will receive 20 percent of the fees, and first place takes 70 percent.

Vendors and concessions will be available at the park, including mural T-shirts for sale. A portion of those sales will be donated back to the Little League, Challenger League, and for the New Boston Little League mural.

This year’s Challenger League state tournament is July 19-21 in Butler County.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.