Registration is now open for 2010 Challenger Division Little League baseball.

Expanding throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, boys and girls ages 5 (by May 1) through 22 with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities may participate in this growing program at any of four locations: Goleta, Carpinteria, Ojai and Ventura.

Registration forms are available online. Click here, and then tab to the program of interest.

Teams are available for all skill levels of play, from home run hitters to wheelchair users. Players include those with physical limitations such as hearing or vision impairment, loss of a limb, health restrictions and other challenges including Asperger syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Prader Willi syndrome and a host of other chromosomal or developmental disorders.

New this year will be the competitive Triple A Division recruiting players from all over Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The Triple A division will schedule home and away games throughout the county.

“There has been a need for this for quite some time. Some children are very capable, but for a variety of reasons are challenged by the level of competitive play and regulations of typical Little League teams. They lose interest and drop out of a sport they love,” division director Retta Slay said. “These children have the necessary physical and cognitive ability to play a regular game, but need some adaptation to their disability, such as hearing loss and a variety of other characteristics where the game and rules need to be more flexible to accommodate their needs. The benefits are so worthwhile — building confidence, self-esteem, sportsmanship, friendships and the pure joy of playing the game — an opportunity every child should have.”

Last season, the Challenger Division included 12 teams of players in Goleta, Carpinteria and Ventura. Ojai Valley Little League will host a new program this year.

“Boundaries do not exist in our Challenger programs, as we want these kids to be able to select a team that is right for them — playing with their best friends, family logistics of where they need to be on the weekends, time of day the games are held, and age and skill level,” Slay says.

Community support is necessary to keep our programs going and growing. Local businesses and community members can donate to provide player scholarships. Organizations can host special event days. Volunteers are needed to serve as coaches and field staff at each location with orientation and training scheduled for Feb. 20 in the Girsh Park Community Room.

For more information, call Slay at 805.681.9165 or send an e-mail to Check the Web site for schedule updates.

— Retta Slay is the director of Challenger Division Little League for Santa Barbara and Ventura counites.