FROM READERS: Volunteering as a Challenger Division "player buddy" is meaningful experience

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 | 1:14 p.m. CDT
The Challenger Division at Daniel Boone Little League “provides boys and girls who have developmental or physical disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the full benefits and excitement of playing on a baseball team,” according to the league.

Ji-Ho Lee is a rising sophomore at Rock Bridge High School and a volunteer player buddy for the Challenger Division.

Corbin Dean is a baseball player. His favorite positions on defense are shortstop and outfield.

The 15-year-old, who will attend Centralia High School as a freshman this fall, plays for the A’s, alongside his teammate Corey Fisher.

The two players compete in the Challenger Division at Daniel Boone Little League. According to the league website, this division “provides boys and girls who have developmental or physical disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the full benefits and excitement of playing on a baseball team.”

The program is open to kids in mid-Missouri whose ages range from 5 to 18. The Challenger Division is comprised of four teams: the A’s, Cardinals, Mariners, and Pirates. The four teams play against each other on Monday nights from late April to late June in games where runs scored and outs are irrelevant.

Fisher will be a freshman at Moberly High School this year. For the past eight seasons, he has been making the one-hour trip from his home to the Daniel Boone complex to play baseball.

Dean has been competing for the past four years. “He loves it … especially the social part of it,” said Tina Umstattd, Dean’s mother.

Fisher, Dean, and every other athlete runs, fields, and hits alongside a “player buddy,” any person who wishes to volunteer and assist the players. Although the Challenger Division is for the players, the volunteers are greatly impacted as well. “It is a phenomenal program with great kids who love baseball,” said one volunteer. “It’s something that I wish a lot more people were involved in.”

The finale for the 2014 summer season was on June 30. Every player left the field with a Popsicle, a trophy to commemorate the concluded season, a lively smile, and cheers from the bleachers.

Karen O’Connor, coordinator of the volunteer player buddies for the last four years, said that she anticipates a fall season for the Challenger Division this year, beginning late August.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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