My Friend Molly
Making Dreams Come True
by Michael McHugh, mlb.com kids
While opening day might still be a couple of months off, ballparks across the country are getting ready. For the professionals, its spring training in Florida and Arizona, then back home to their stadiums, ready for another big year.
For Little Leaguers, the practices will soon begin, each kid thinking about what if……..
There is another league that is also getting ready for practice, one many don’t know about. It’s called the Challenger League, a division of Little League Baseball.
Challenger League provides physically and mentally disabled kids the opportunity to play baseball. While organized sports often are too much for special needs kids, the Challenger League allows them all to be winners, It doesn’t matter if you can hit the ball or run fast. Everyone gets on base, everyone gets a hit, and everyone gets to play. There is no score kept. Every disabled kid gets to feel special just like everyone else.
My friend, Molly Hart, 16, who has a form of Downs Syndrome, used to watch her brother and sister go off to their practices and she wished she could play too. Kids with special needs often struggle to find a place in organized sports, and Molly was no exception.
Several years ago, in my hometown, Friendswood, Texas, a Challenger League was formed, and Molly found a place to belong. She loves being part of a team, playing with her friends and having success. Challenger League gives the kids a chance to have fun, and each child is paired with a "buddy". The "buddy" is a volunteer, usually from one of the Little League teams, and assists their partner in the game and encourages them.
Molly will tell you that her favorite part of baseball is her friends and the "snow cones" when the game is over.
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund awarded a grant of $150,000 to Little League Baseball in 2004. The grant will support the expansion of the Little League Baseball Challenger Division by funding the purchase of equipment and uniforms for 75 new leagues over a five-year period.
This year, Molly hopes to go to an Astros game and cheer her home team on and maybe get the chance to meet Craig Biggio.
For me, I now rank Molly Hart and the Challenger League as my favorite baseball player and team. She is an inspiration to us all. No million dollar salaries here. She just plays for the love of the game, the smiles, and the snow cones at the end. I’d say that’s a great day at the ballpark.