Ravens baseball celebrates third annual Challenger Day

Jul 3, 2023Melissa Trevizo
Challenger Game

The San Jacinto College Ravens baseball team partnered with the North Shore Little League Challenger Division to commemorate its third annual Challenger Day Sunday, April 16. The day was celebrated by fans of the Challenger Division and Ravens alike with special guest Ken Wimbley from the North Shore Rotary Club.

“The Challenger event is equally significant for our team and community,” said Kory Koehler, assistant baseball coach. “Introducing our student-athletes to a world that accepts and appreciates children with special needs while sharing a mutual love for the game is vitally important.”

Realizing a dream

The local Challenger Division started six years ago as part of the national Little League Challenger Program. The division enables boys and girls with physical and mental challenges, ages 4-18 or up to age 22 if still enrolled in high school, to enjoy baseball along with millions of other children who participate in the sport. More than 30,000 athletes participate in 950 Challenger programs worldwide.

As a parent of a special needs child, you are faced with many unique challenges. Some parents give up on the dream of seeing their child participate in team sports. When Challenger began, that dream came true for our parents. They saw their children on the field playing baseball and being part of a team in a game designed for their success. Challenger changes the lives of everyone it touches.
Eric Kirchner
North Shore Little League president and Galena Park ISD program director of special education

Kirchner believes “the college athletes gain a new perspective from participating with our league. The impact on others can be life-changing when you begin to see people differently. You start to look past the disabilities and see the child as a little ballplayer whose parents are cheering them on.”

Both the Ravens and the Galveston Community College Whitecaps acted as buddies during the game. The buddies assist the Challenger players on the field as needed. Whenever possible, players bat and make plays themselves.

“Being a Challenger buddy for two years was an experience I’m grateful for,” said Jose Torres, Ravens catcher. “This event has really marked something on my heart. Seeing the kids’ eyes light up and sharing a love for baseball together is something I’ll never forget.”

Challenger Day Origins

The day was inspired by Koehler’s son Keaton, who was born with brain deformities. Doctors told the Koehlers their baby would not live more than 10 hours without oxygen. Keaton survived and has been diagnosed with Desmosterolosis, a condition on the cerebral palsy spectrum. The 11-year-old now competes with the other 70 athletes in the Challenger Division.

“My wife, Erika, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to involve our son and the Challenger League into our spring schedule of events,” Koehler said. “Challenger Day provides tremendous life lessons to our student-athletes while putting joy in the hearts of families that endure the struggle daily. If for just a few hours, it provides a world’s worth of smiles to those who need it.”

With three years under their belt, the organization plans to continue the tradition for many years to come.

“The Challenger event always significantly impacts our student-athletes — maybe even more than the children we support,” said Koehler. “They are greatly moved, and it's an honor to represent our College in a way that gives back to our community.”

To learn more about the Challenger Division, visit facebook.com/NSLLChallengerDivision.


Challenger Game Day 2023

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