Challenger baseball players, buddies, and volunteers filled City Park Saturday.
Thankfully for them, the raindrops held off as Langley Baseball hosted the Provincial Challenger Baseball Jamboree, sponsored by McDonalds.
Twenty-eight teams consisting of roughly 300 players, as well as 41 coaches and 159 "buddies" took part in a series of games to finish up the Challenger season.
Langley Baseball Challenger Division coordinator Darlene Antoniuk said, based on the dreary forecast leading up to the jamboree, it was a "minor miracle" the weather turned out the way it did.
"That was a huge relief," she said.
The day included opening and closing ceremonies, with games in between.
The BC Little League Challenger Division has been in full swing throughout the province this spring.
The division allows boys and girls ages five to 18 with cognitive and physical challenges to play baseball and take part in a team sport. Challenger baseball is completely non-competitive - it is all about participation and having fun.
The program provides for a "buddy system" in which others can assist the Challenger players both at bat and in the field.
"Buddies" assist players but their priority is to encourage the player to participate to the maximum of his/her ability.
Saturday's tournament drew two teams from Vancouver Island as well as entries from across the Lower Mainland, Langley, North Langley, the Sunshine Coast, Mission, and North Vancouver.
Also on hand was Ian McLean, the Provincial Challenger coordinator who was with his teams from Highlands.
McLean was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award by Baseball Canada at a meeting in Toronto this month.
Each year, McLean organizes a golf tournament which donates money to help fund Challenger programs in the province, Antoniuk said.
Antoniuk's personal connection to Challenger baseball comes through her 11year-old son Ben, who started playing ball when was five.
"I could not fathom that kids five to 18 would all play together, but when I first saw the teams playing, I was amazed at how much fun they all had and how well the older and younger children played together," Antoniuk said. "I actually have some players now in their early 20s who don't want to quit, and we have special permission to allow them to continue on as they have no other place to play."
The Langley Challenger program's coaches - Drew Hatch, Ross Robertson and Wyatt Babcock - have volunteered for years.
"Their dedication to the program is what helps keep it going each year," Antoniuk said.
About Challenger baseball
The program is based on the understanding that kids with a wide variety of challenges have the ability to play baseball, make new friends, and have fun.
Baseball rules are adapted as required to match players' abilities so that teamwork and participation are emphasized.
Also, the children, parents and volunteers have the opportunity to socialize and learn from one another.
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