National Challenger Jamboree more than just a baseball game

June 14, 2016

TORONTO-They came from places like Vancouver, BC, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Ottawa and New Lowell, Ontario. Some had never left their hometowns before or been on an airplane, but at the end of the day they left Toronto with huge smiles on their faces, new friendships made and a lifetime of memories.

Challenger Baseball and the National Challenger Baseball Jamboree has that type of impact and over the weekend, at Rogers Centre in Toronto, over 100 participants along with their families took to the field after the Blue Jays/Orioles game to showcase one of the fastest growing programs in the country.

The scene was incredible as participants and their “buddies”, who assist participants with their involvement in the game, made their way around the bases before joining one of five games on the Rogers Centre turf.

One of the games had a unique feel to it as all participants playing in the game down the right field line hailed from the province of Nova Scotia.

Randy Crouse, Provincial Coordinator for Challenger Baseball in Nova Scotia, said that the entire group consisting of participants and their family members totaled 93 and took quite a bit of organizing to get them to Toronto.

“It started in 2015 once I returned home from attending the 3rd annual National Challenger Baseball Jamboree,” said Crouse. “We started fundraising through auctions, 50/50 draws and raising awareness through newspaper and radio ads. We were getting donations from complete strangers, even. It was pretty incredible to see how it all came together.”

For some participants and their families, visiting Toronto and flying on a plane were brand new experiences and there was some apprehension that went along with it.

“It was a bit of a daunting task at first, from a logistical standpoint but we made it happen,” explained Crouse. “People were excited, cheering on the airplane as we took off and landed.”

The weekend included trips to the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium and Hockey Hall of Fame for the group from Nova Scotia representing Antigonish and Hammonds Plains Minor Baseball.

The highlight however was checking out a pair of Blue Jays games before taking the field for the jamboree. Crouse says that seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces is something that he cherishes.

“It makes you feel pretty good when you see how happy the kids and their families are after experiencing something like this,” he said. “We gave all the kids Blue Jays foam fingers and some of the kids are still sleeping with theirs.

“It was a pretty humbling experience seeing an event like this and knowing that it could have such a positive impact.”

Not only has travelling to Toronto and partaking in the annual National Challenger Baseball Jamboree meant a great deal to these families, being involved with Challenger Baseball, locally, has had a massive impact as well.

“Naturally, families are not quite sure what their getting involved with when it comes to Challenger Baseball,” said Crouse. “Now that they’ve seen the program up close, and knowing that it’s National Program with involvement from Baseball Canada, Little League Canada and the Blue Jays, they are completely on board and want to do even more.

Through Challenger Baseball, friendships are being formed for players and their families as they spend more time together.

“It really is incredible,” added Crouse. “Families see each other at the ballpark each week, they’ve been here to Toronto so their forming a strong bond.

“That’s what is so special about the Challenger Baseball program, its reach extends far beyond the baseball field.”

To find out more about the Challenger Baseball program and an association near you, visit challengerbaseball.ca.