The West Boynton Little League Challenger Baseball Fall Division is returning to the diamond at West Boynton Park for participants with special needs.
The WBLL Challenger Division provides an opportunity for participants with developmental and physical disabilities. The league meets at 6 p.m. Fridays and is scheduled to run until Nov. 4 at the park, 6000 Northtree Blvd. The Challenger Division features boys and girls from the ages 5 to 18 and is also open to beginners without prior experience. The league has an emphasis on teaching participants and to help with social skills, character, team building and being active.
The West Boynton Little League has volunteer coaches and buddies who work individually with each special needs participant to assist in the field and at the plate. The volunteers include baseball and softball players from Park Vista and Santaluces high schools.
The league participants warmup at the field and play a two-inning game. They all have an opportunity at the plate and to take the field. The parents and family members cheer on from the stands.
Kristy Mangone serves as the director of the Challenger Baseball Division. She previously was a coach and supporter in the league. Mangone’s son has played in the WBLL Challenger Division since the league’s first season. She said they are accepting participants to join the group.
“We have grown since we started and it’s a nice turnout,” she said. “Every player gets one-on-one buddies who are mentors. We also have coaches from the West Boynton Little League. We have kids at different levels and abilities who need support. All the kids have a chance to bat with the opposing team in the field and the buddies help them feel safe. The buddies have really developed special relationships and friendships with the kids and enjoy coming back each season. It’s been successful and it’s heartwarming to see.”
The WBLL Challenger Division started in 2019 and includes a fall and spring season at West Boynton Park. Mangone credited Josh Strikowski for his commitment and the growth of the league. He previously ran the league and will continue to provide support as a coach. They have a pizza party with an awards ceremony and trophies after the final game of the season.
“We have some veteran players who are returning and some new players and buddies,” Mangone said. “We previously just had baseball players as buddies and we have softball players for the first time this season and they can help support the girls participating. We have players from Park Vista and Santaluces. They are rivals when they play against each other and it’s nice and fun to see them working together and helping the kids.”