Deb Abraham Spalding
The Frederick Challenger League is a baseball program for players with disabilities or challenges of any type: physical, emotional, or developmental. The league started in Frederick 30 years ago in 1989. It is the first-ever regional Little League program that encompasses all of Maryland District II (Frederick, Montgomery, and Carroll Counties). Games are played in Clarksburg, Mt. Airy, Frederick, and Thurmont.
The league has a successful history, having played the Little League World Series in 2005, the Thurmont team played at the White House in 2007, they play with the Frederick Keys every year, and they help operate a fantasy camp with the Orioles in the summer.
Volunteers with the Thurmont Little League hosted the first annual James Garst Memorial Jamboree on May 11, 2019, at the Thurmont Little League fields. The Jamboree is a regional gathering of Little League Challenger teams. This tournament included teams from Dillsburg and Pen Mar, Pennsylvania, as well as the Maryland teams. The tournament is named for Jim Garst. He was a coach for the Frederick Challenger League for 15 years. Last year, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during the season and passed shortly after.
Current Challenger League president, Guy Berry, has been involved with the league for 25 years, serving as president for the past 15. He is the father of three special needs kids: one was legally blind, one was deaf, and one has autism. His children no longer play in the league. His oldest son can now see and serves in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper; his daughter had substantial hearing restored from a surgery at age 11 and is now a teacher; and his youngest son works in a restaurant in Frederick.
Challenger participants are aged five into their thirties. Guy explained, “Our league worked to have Little League International allow a senior division without a top age, which is different from any other Little League program. Some people with disabilities would not have the opportunity to play on a team without this league. Participants are assigned to teams based on ability, not age.”
Volunteers are necessary to keep the players safe. There are approximately 45 volunteers assisting 50 players in the League right now.
Visit www.challengerfrederick.org or call the league president, Guy Berry, at 301-471-9701 for more information. Registration is always open.
Bobby Van Dyk is an original player on the Frederick Challenger League. He now helps as a volunteer.
Abby Barnes with the St. Claire team receives her participation medal.
Lucas Garst heads to receive his participation medal after hearing his name called.