San Jacinto College baseball players recently partnered with the North Shore Little League Challenger Division to celebrate the first Special Needs Day event before their game April 27.
The day was celebrated by fans of the Challenger Division and Gators alike with special guests Roger Clemens, San Jac alum and former MLB player, and Dr. Chris Parker, president of the NJCAA.
"I have received many appreciative compliments of the Special Needs Day event and what it means for our campus to connect with our community through kids and baseball," said Tom Arrington, San Jacinto College baseball coach. "We are very fortunate to be able to positively impact the lives of the kids and families around us and to instill a foundation of community support in the young players of San Jacinto College."
The Challenger Division was established as a separate division of Little League to enable 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 the millions of other children who participate in this sport worldwide. More than 30,000 children participate in more than 900 Challenger Divisions worldwide.
Both the Gators and the opposing team, the Galveston College Whitecaps, acted as buddies during the game. The buddies assist the Challenger players on the field but, whenever possible, encourage the players to bat and make plays themselves.
The day was inspired by Gators assistant coach Kory Koehler's son Keaton. Keaton was born with brain deformities, and the Koehler's were told their son would not live more than 5-10 hours off oxygen as a newborn. Keaton survived and has been diagnosed with Desmosterolosis, a condition on the cerebral palsy spectrum. The 8-year-old was able to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Challenger game.
The event left such an impact on some of the San Jac baseball players that they showed up at the Challenger's final game the next day to cheer on the kids again.
"So many of us were very moved by the whole experience that our kids had at San Jac,"
said Tammy Takeda, board member of the Challenger Division. "Having them come out
again to support us for our final game was really amazing. Here's to the start of
a great partnership."