Youth baseball has been a fixture at the National Little League park at Cook Street and Hillside Avenue for six-plus decades.
This year the region’s oldest Little League (founded 1953) is adding a new wrinkle to play on the field, with the addition of the Doug Hudlin Challenger Baseball program for children with cognitive or physical disabilities.
The new division, part of a Baseball Canada initiative partially funded by the Jays Care Foundation, is being spearheaded by Barb Hudlin in memory of her uncle Doug, the beloved umpire who was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame last summer.
“It’s a way for kids to have fun, they’re outside and playing with other kids,” Hudlin says. “It’s about being out there in the world and society and they’re accepted for who they are. It’s kids with different abilities, just like Doug would have wanted.”
More players from Victoria and Esquimalt are needed for the 2017 season, to help make the experience even more fun for all involved.
Regulation bats, balls and helmets are used, with hats, jerseys and specially tailored gloves provided, and the weekly sessions go Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. on the diamond at Jerry Hale Field.
There are already plenty of “buddy” volunteers available to help out, Hudlin says, which is a key part of making this style of baseball accessible.
Longtime Baseball Canada president Ray Carter from Nanaimo was inducted into the Hall with Doug Hudlin last year and is the founder of Challenger Baseball.
Carter’s efforts inspired Barb to get the first Challenger program off the ground in the City of Victoria, she says.
“It’s about making baseball available to everyone,” she adds.
The season gets underway April 15. Registrations are still being taken by calling Hudlin at 250-891-4974 or emailing her at Hudlinbaseball11@gmail.ca. More information on Challenger Baseball can be found at nationallittleleague.org/programs/challenger.