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Posted on February 20, 2013 | 12:42 p.m.

Gauchos, Community Team Up for Challengers Spring Baseball

Source: Retta Slay for Little League Challengers

The UCSB Gauchos baseball team turned out in great numbers to host a Skills Clinic for Challengers ball players in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties on Feb. 8 at Girsh Park. It was the first of several pre-season events before the Little League Challengers program starts up for another successful season.

“Any chance we get to be around the Challenger crew, we want to take,” said Matt Harvey, UCSB baseball’s assistant strength coach and co-camp coordinator. “The joy, passion and energy that they play amazes and excites us all.”

Challenger Director Retta Slay welcomes local ball teams and clubs to schedule a time to participate on the field with the 14-plus teams of challenged children during the season.

New and returning boys and girls with any physical, developmental or intellectual disability are invited to attend Saturday’s “Back to the Ball Fields” rally at Girsh Park. This “welcome party” includes introductory skills and activity stations, demonstration ball games, a Dos Pueblos High School cheerleading exhibition, entertainment and a free ballpark lunch provided by local Northside Optimists. Team assignments and uniforms will be distributed to those who register.

The Little League Challenger Division serves children and teens, age 5 by May 1 and up through high school. There are teams for all abilities and skill levels, competitive and non-competitive: T-ball, coach-pitch and skills teams. Wheelchair players are included, too! Registration remains open throughout the season.

A cheerleading clinic inclusive of children with and without disabilities will take place at Girsh Park from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Instruction will be provided by local cheerleaders. Register online at or at the ballpark on March 9.

Community members, groups and students support 150-plus players by volunteering 1½ hours on Saturdays as one-on-one baseball buddies, coaches, managers, field staff, photography, event help, contributing services and donations to sponsor players. To get involved, sponsor or donate.

Local Challenger program locations include Ventura, Carpinteria, Goleta and, coming this spring, Lompoc. Volunteers are sought for each program.

Scholarships from generous local businesses and individuals support the program so that no child is turned away. Contribute to Challengers at P.O. Box 1243, Goleta, CA 93116.

The season will open March 2. Schedules and Information vary by location but can be found online by clicking here or calling 805.681.9165.

Come out to watch us play and cheer us on. We would love to see you there!

— Retta Slay is the coordinator for Little League Challengers baseball in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

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