MARYSVILLE – One by one, young ballplayers started to pull into Marysville Municipal Park on a beautiful Thursday night.
Some rolled up in wheelchairs. Others walked by holding hands with their parents. They came to the field with different abilities, but they all showed up with the same look — a baseball jersey and a smile stretching from ear to ear.
Why? Because it was Thursday night, and that meant another evening of baseball in the Marysville Little League Challenger Division.
“To see the kids smile, that’s the only goal we have when we come out here,” division co-founder Steve Lucas said.
Every week since the beginning of May, the Challenger Division takes the field and has a ball. The league designed for St. Clair and Sanilac County children ages 5 to 22 with any special need enjoyed its final game of the season before heading into the holiday weekend.
The players are constantly cheering for one another, even if they’re on the other team. There are more smiles seen on the field than in a World Series champion’s locker room. And, perhaps the best part, there aren’t really any rules.
“Regular Little League games are all about competing and following the rules,” coach Cheri Weingartz said. “This league there are no rules, except to be sure everybody is having a good time and staying happy.”
The games are played under T-ball regulations, which means there’s never a player walking back to the dugout after an at bat. Especially Courtney Seaford, who ended the top of the first inning with a grand slam.
Even if the ball doesn’t go too far, the hitter goes to first and gets ready to run the bases.
“(My favorite is) batting — I can hit really far,” Victoria Guay said while waving her hand back to show how far she can hit.
There are no outs, only good plays that earn cheers and high fives — and the whole batting lineup hits before the inning ends. The batters can also choose between facing a pitcher or hitting off a tee.
“We get to see a lot of improvement with the kids — we are pitching to about 90 percent of them,” Steve Lucas said.
Games are just three innings, but those hour-and-a-half games are more than enough to brighten every player’s week.
“My older son Jason will look at me excited on some Wednesday nights and say, ‘Baseball?'” Weingartz said. “And I’ll say ‘Yep, we have baseball tomorrow!'”
The kids aren’t the only ones having a blast on the field, as the coaches and volunteer buddies who help in the field love coming out on Thursdays, as well.
“It’s their way to get out here, compete, run around and have a great time,” said Tom Ryan, who is usually Alex Piper and Brodey Hornby’s buddy. “The parents really enjoy seeing their kids run around and have a good time.”
While there isn’t a game next week, there will still be a joyful atmosphere during the end of the year picnic when every player receives a trophy with their name on it.
“These kids love their trophies,” co-founder Renee Lucas said with her son, playing second base behind her.
“They get so excited they get a trophy, and everybody comes out just for that.”
Contact Matt Sheehan at (810)-989-6267 or email@example.com. He’s on Twitter @Sheehan_Sports.
2015 Challenger League roster
Steven Lucas Jr.
James Ursitti Jr.