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"Challenger" teams faceoff in baseball game, a home run for inclusivity in Yuba City

Yuba City mom starts baseball team for kids with physical and intellectual disabilities
Yuba City mom starts baseball team for kids with physical and intellectual disabilities 01:58

YUBA CITY - A Yuba City mom started a baseball team for kids with physical and intellectual disabilities after finding her 11-year-old son with Down Syndrome didn't have anywhere to play. 

"Mikey has a big brother and he's been playing baseball for eight years. He's been coming to all of his practices and his games and asking 'Where's my team, where's my team?'" Melissa Armstrong, Challenger Division Coordinator, said. 

Armstrong said she had heard of "Challenger" teams in other areas from friends of her son Mikey. 

"I said 'Why don't we have one?' And my husband said, 'You should start one,'" Armstrong said. 

She said she went to the Peach Bowl Little League Board and asked if they would be willing to have a Challenger team, and they overwhelmingly said yes. 

What started as an idea two years ago, is now a reality, as they played a game in Yuba City against another challenger team from Elk Grove on Saturday. 

"I have a brother who also has a disability and back in the 70s when I played, we didn't really have a program like this and we had to fight really hard to get him to play," Kelly Scott Northridge Challenger Coordinator, said. 

Armstrong said there are now four teams and more than 30 players on the Challenger teams at the Peach Bown Little League. 

Major teams in the area even came out Saturday as "buddies" to help run bases and field the ball.

"It's a lot more inclusion for both because they get to experience seeing that it's perfectly normal and fun to be playing with these kids and be a part of it," Armstrong said. 

Everyone involved had the goal of reminding everyone of what playing any sport is truly all about. 

"I've been coaching on and off for 30 years and at times it got frustrating but stepping on the field with these kids, it makes baseball feel like a fun game all over again," Scott said. 

They will face off again at a game at Northridge in Sacramento on May 5 at 10 a.m. 

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