Challenger Baseball into its 24th season
By Mark Newman, News Staff
It’s a warm night at Inch Park and there’s chatter on the ball diamonds.
Everyone seems into the game.
A batter waits anxiously at the plate.
The ball is tossed underhand and slowly about waist high.
There’s the familiar “clink” sound as the aluminum bat connects with the ball sending it to the green.
Welcome to Hamilton Challenger Baseball Association action.
“Hitting is what I do best,” said 35-year-old Mark Webster, a west end resident who has been playing in the league for players with physical and developmental challenges since it began 24 years ago.
“Keep your eye on the ball,” said Webster who plays for the Challenger Royals squad.
Patrolling first base for the opposition Challenger Astros in her bright orange sweater is 24-year-old Ancaster resident Sally Anderson.
She’s been playing Challenger Baseball for the past five years.
“It’s fun to play first base,”Anderson said. “It’s pretty busy; I get to be in the action.”
Anderson and Webster said they look forward to going to Inch Park on Monday nights during the late spring and summer and they’re disappointed when rain cancels their games.
“They take it seriously,” said Mike Moore, president of the Hamilton Challenger Baseball Association, who this season has 175 players participating in Monday and Tuesday night leagues. “We really try to promote the social aspect of the game”
Monday nights feature semi-competitive and competitive adult teams as well as junior action where most players perform independently.
The Tuesday night league is for fun and recreation.
Many of the Tuesday night players use wheel chairs or require an on-field buddy to support them.
The teams play a modified form of seven inning slow pitch where they either pitch to themselves or an association coach pitches to both sides and each side runs their full battling line-up before switching to the field.
“We’re trying to build up a fun atmosphere and I think it’s working,” said Moore, who noted Inch Park has been the association’s home turf for the last three or four years.
He added the association has begun making plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary next season.
Challenger Baseball is open to anyone age five and up with special needs.
On Sunday HCBA players will face the IBL Hamilton Cardinals in a Challenger Baseball game starting at 10:30 a.m. at Bernie Arbour Stadium.
HCBA players will also get to do some batting practice with the Cardinals prior to the team’s 2 p.m. game against Guelph.
Fore more information on Hamilton Challenger Baseball, go to hcba.on.ca.