Challenger Baseball To Precede Sunday’s Aquasox Game Against Hillsboro At Funko Field In Everett, Washington

July 13, 2023

Everett Sports

It will be a special Sunday at Funko Field as the Everett Aquasox host a Challenger Little League baseball game at 2:30 PM before the Frogs take on Hillsboro. Here’s the scoop.

Challenger baseball

Come out at 2:30 Sunday and cheer on some inspiring athletes!

Brad Pitt in the baseball cinema classic Moneyball, said, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” This beautiful game has become a bastion of American summers. A children’s game that marks the passage of time and brings family and friends together to have fun and enjoy the sun. Since 1989, Little League has ensured that men and women of all abilities can experience this reality.

The Challenger division of Little League was established in 1989 as a way for kids with mental and physical challenges to play the great American game. Since then it has taken off all over the United States and grown into two divisions, allowing people of all ages and abilities to get out on a baseball field and have fun.

The Everett area belongs to District 8 of Little League in Washington and one of the most notable Little Leagues in the area that hosts the program is Woodinville Little League, which began hosting Challenger events in 1991 when Gary and Beverly Newsome got the program off the ground.

One of Woodinville Challengers’ head honchos and most vocal ambassadors is Rick Davis. Under Davis’ leadership, Woodinville Challenger has been able to make connections with the Seattle professional sports community, hosting events at T-Mobile Park and Funko Field and giving his kids the chance to play baseball alongside professional ball players, an experience enriching to everyone on the field.

“We have had Dan Wilson out there a couple of times, Alvin Davis has been out there,” Davis said. “It is a great time for our kids to be out there with professional baseball players, be on the field, be in their uniforms playing baseball, especially if there are fans in the seats. It’s amazing what the pro players take away from this, it’s kind of like a reset for them because for a brief amount of time, they get to be 12 or 13-year-old kids again.”

Woodinville Challenger will be hosting a game before the AquaSox take on the Hillsboro Hops on Sunday. The Challenger contest will occur as fans are filing into their seats at 2:30. If Everett fans have never seen a Challenger game, they have an opportunity to experience something special. Davis remembers the first time he watched a challenger game, a very emotional moment that came with the realization that he could play baseball with his son Ryan, who was born with developmental challenges.

“I had never heard of it, never saw it and I literally had tears in my eyes watching kids with different abilities play baseball, which I never thought would be possible for me and my son for me to be able to coach him,” Davis said. “So, it was about 2000 when we joined the team they were on, the Woodinville Blue Jays. Since then, my team has become the Woodinville Mariners.”

Davis uses the term “different abilities” in place of the more common refrain, “disabilities.” He does this because he believes the kids on his Challenger team have incredible talents in different areas that others do not possess. Davis also makes it clear that the players on his Challenger team have real baseball talent, which became very apparent a few years ago when they played a game at T-Mobile Park.

“Playing at Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park) was a highlight for the kids,” Davis said. “We used safety balls in the first year, and one of my hitters hit a line drive foul ball over the third base dugout and completely cleaned out a section of seats because they weren’t paying attention, and they don’t realize some of these kids can really hit.”

The District Eight Challenger baseball division consists of nine teams. Five teams play in the 4-18-year-old division, while four teams, including Davis’ squad, play in the upper division which consists mostly of players over the age of 18. They play a normal regular season in the spring as all Little League teams do before capping it off with a big jamboree in June that consists of teams from all over the state of Washington.

While organization and facilities are not a challenge for the Challenger baseball division, Davis says awareness is.

“The biggest challenge we have is recruiting,” Davis said. “It’s getting it out in front of people so there’s awareness so that someone might see it and say, ‘my Granddaughter or Grandson or cousin or somebody has disabilities, and we didn’t know this opportunity existed for them. That is why I work continually trying to push to have an AquaSox day or a Mariners Challenger game where people get to see it and the media is there, and it is out in front of people.”

Woodinville Challenger has been having AquaSox days since 2009. They took a brief hiatus from 2020-2022, with a modified social distancing game occurring in 2021. This year everything is back to normal, and Davis is absolutely stoked to get to see his players gracing the turf of Funko Field with professional baseball players once again.

But at the end of the day, this program is about so much more than baseball, it is about the camaraderie and the friendships the Challenger players get to form with each other that end up lasting a lifetime.

“For the most part, kids do love the game of baseball, but more often than not it’s about camaraderie and relationships being developed. Most of my guys and girls have been playing together for years,” Davis said.



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