The St. Francois County Challenger Baseball league is celebrating 10 seasons of “everyone plays – everyone wins” and this season is no exception.
The new season kicks off at 9 a.m. on May 5 at the Farmington Sports Complex.
The league is for children ages 5 and up, and adults with developmental disabilities. Every person – regardless of their developmental disability – can play.
It’s a league with a motto stating “everybody plays … everybody scores … everybody wins.”
Just as equally important to the league are the buddies (kids and young adults between the ages of 10 and 20) who hang out with the players on the field and assist when needed.
Last year, players and buddies participated in the Challenger League All-Star game in St. Louis – a first for the local team. The game brings participants from leagues all around the St. Louis area for an evening of fun.
In addition, the St. Francois County league had an opportunity to play a game on the Ste. Genevieve Challenger field – a unique ballfield designed for the league and giving the local players an opportunity to play under the lights for the first evening game.
The league began play in Farmington in 2008 when Joe and Michelle Hoffmeister wished to bring an opportunity to children in the community who may not otherwise have the opportunity to be a part of a team.
Challenger Baseball is an opportunity for children with physical or mental disabilities to enjoy the national pastime with a “buddy” by their side.
The couple first became familiar with the program when their son, Spencer, played a couple of games in St. Louis in 2007. Shortly after that, Joe made the pledge to bring the program to Farmington.
When the couple speak of what the league has done for their son – and the children who have played in the past 10 seasons – it means so much more than a ballgame.
It is a life lesson for all involved. A way to look for the similarities instead of differences.
“Baseball is just a medium,” Joe said
Using the ABCs of inclusion – acceptance, belonging and community – is what Michelle said the team does the most for their family.
Before the start of the 2014 season, Michelle said the building of relationships means the most.
“(The buddies) see that kiddo out in school or in the community,” she said at the time, “and say ‘hey, Joe!’ or ‘hi, Spencer!’ and boom!”
“It starts,” Joe adds.
“It’s community,” Michelle continues. “That’s the piece you know is immeasurable. We can’t replicate that any place else because our kiddos can’t play an organized sport. Challenger gives them that place.”
Joe said there are so many ramifications to what “just one hour of playing baseball does.”
“It’s a relationship builder…we do it through the medium of baseball,” Joe Hoffmeister, on the St. Francois County Challenger Baseball League
“It’s a relationship builder. We do it through the medium of baseball,” he said.
He hopes this year can be a celebration, inviting past players, coaches and buddies to once again be a part of the league.
Registration for the league is available online at challengerbaseball.org or by contacting Hoffmeister at 573-915-1061. There is a $25 registration fee for players which can be waived, if necessary.
There are no practices for the teams. Those who register to play will receive a uniform and a trophy during a picnic celebration held at the end of the season.
For information on being a buddy or coach, contact Hoffmeister at 573-915-1061 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information can also be found on the team’s Facebook page, St. Francois County Challenger Baseball.
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or email@example.com