There were smiles everywhere as kids swung bats and smashed baseballs all over the field while parents and friends applauded the efforts of the young players taking part in South Pasadena Little League’s Challenger Division season-ending game at Orange Grove Park.
Nothing was at stake on this recent Sunday except boundless fun.
The youngsters trotted down to first base, often assisted with help from volunteers, and rounded the bases, some crossing home plate beaming with pride. Others took a swing and missed, or once in the field watched as the ball trickled under their gloves and legs into the outfield.
An error didn’t matter at all as players on both teams continued to giggle and laugh. It was the theme of the day.
South Pasadena offers the only Challenger Division for players with physical and intellectual challenges in Little League’s District 18, which includes about 10 teams in neighboring cities. It is a recognized part of Little League International, along with traditional baseball and softball.
Leading up to the season-ending game and dinner, featuring hamburgers and hotdogs, South Pasadena’s team played home and away games against squads throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
Spearheading it all were Scott Parker and Lorne Platt, who have volunteered countless hours over the past nine years as coordinators of the local Challenger Division, which includes participants ranging in age from 4 to 16 given an opportunity to play a team sport.
“What the kids get most out of it is being outside playing, being with other kids facing similar challenges,” explained Parker, noting that it also provides parents of the players a chance to relax in the stands while watching children have the time of their life.
Having an opportunity to play baseball and make friends is a major part of Challenger Division, explained Platt. “We try to make sure they’re having a good time,” he said.
Joining Parker and Platt at games are local middle school and high school students also lending their time. “It’s good to get their involvement so they have an understanding of just how well they have it,” said Parker. “I really thank them for helping enrich the lives of other kids.”
Added Platt: “They’re incredibly important and we appreciate their commitment for giving back to their community.”
After doing some research on the Challenger Division, Parker said he saw a need and kick-started the program after receiving a call from former South Pasadena Little League President Joe Payne. “The first year I think we only had one player involved,” said Parker.
Today, there are about 30 looking forward to the Sunday afternoon play.
“Just seeing kids smile,” responded Parker, when asked what he enjoyed most about being around the players. “That’s all I ask – that a kid has fun. What else could you ask for than a smile out of the kid?”
Members of the South Pasadena police and fire departments were on hand, playing catch with the players during their final game of the season at Orange Grove Park. It has become an annual ritual since the final game and potluck were launched about five years ago.
“It’s just fun to see a kid smile and have a lot of fun and the parents relax a little bit,” Parker said. “It’s just a win-win.”