After knocking it out of the park, so to speak, in its inaugural yeat, the Lower Sussex Little League Challenger Division is ready for year two.
“[Last season] went really, really well,” said Megan Browne, who helped launch and run the LSLL division last year, along with her husband, Kevan. “We were amazed how quickly the kids picked up how to play and the whole flow of the game — they all loved it.”
The Little League Baseball organization designed for players with special needs was started last summer, after the Brownes had approached the LSLL board with the idea, inspired by how much their son, Aiden, had enjoyed playing in a similar league when they lived in Maryland before moving to the area.
Not only was the board supportive of the idea, but they arranged to have two Challenger teams play at the Pyle Center in Roxana during the Little League World Series this past August.
“This is why we love Lower Sussex so much,” said Browne. “The kids loved it. The Maryland team that came down to play us loved it. They were all so proud. They all got one of the big, giant gold medals that all the World Series winners get.”
And it wasn’t just the players enjoying the game, either. Browne said that fans from teams around the world gathered to watch after hearing all the excitement coming from their field.
“It was so cool because all the other games going on were really competitive, really serious, but all you could hear during our games was cheering and laughing, so people starting wandering over,” she explained. “They started laughing and cheering, and they got into it [too]. That was just really neat to see.”
While Challenger Division organizers are hoping they get a chance to play during the World Series again this season, it’s that kind of example that defines what it’s all about. More so than strikes and balls and runs and keeping score, the league is about everyone getting a chance to have fun, no matter what.
And no matter what it might be that’s prohibiting a player from joining another LSLL division, the Challenger Division has a spot for everybody.
‘The goal is for everybody to be comfortable,” Browne said. “We’re psyched to have kids of all different abilities. That’s the question we get all the time, is ‘Can he still play?’ Yes — absolutely you can. You can help him hit. You can run around the bases with him.”
To be able to accommodate all different needs and all different levels of experience and ability, the Challenger Division sets up each player with a “buddy” for both fielding and batting. Some buddies are parents or siblings, some are volunteers from the community, and some are even Lower Sussex players themselves.
“The kids think that is super, super cool,” Browne said of the LSLL volunteers. “I love to see older kids helping out the younger kids. We’d love to have some more players involved.”
Last year, the Challenger Division ran during the summer, with two small teams. This year, however, the division will play on Saturdays throughout the spring, along with the rest of the Lower Sussex teams. Browne said that, just as the league can handle any player, it can also handle pretty much any player schedule, understanding full well when someone has to miss a game or practice.
And while they’re happy with their “slow growth” so far, they’re hoping to field two full teams this year, as Challenger continues to grow in the future. Two more walk-in registrations will be held in March, the time and dates of which are still to be determined. However, online registration will remain open at www.lowersussexlittleleague.com through Wednesday, March 23.
“We’d love to put two full teams together this year, but we’re open to whatever happens,” said Browne. “It seems like everybody’s excited to come back this year.”
For more information, contact Kevan and Megan Brown at LLSLChallengerDivision@gmail.com.