The delightful ‘organized chaos’ that is Challenger baseball returns to Langley

Colton Kenna at the bat during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove on Saturday, April 9. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)Colton Kenna at the bat during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove on Saturday, April 9. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Owain Jones-Cook, 8, at bat and running during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)Owain Jones-Cook, 8, at bat and running during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Matteo Marcolin, AlexPark, Kaden Artemenko and Nate Molina cover second base during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)Matteo Marcolin, AlexPark, Kaden Artemenko and Nate Molina cover second base during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Challenger player Matteo Marcolin dives for the ball at second base under the guidance of his U18 buddy Alex Park during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)Challenger player Matteo Marcolin dives for the ball at second base under the guidance of his U18 buddy Alex Park during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Owain Jones-Cook and Allison Wiebe run to first base during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)Owain Jones-Cook and Allison Wiebe run to first base during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Challenger player Kati Kovacs runs to first base under the guidance of her U18 buddy Bryce Dobbs Cox and coach Rob Jones-Cook during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)Challenger player Kati Kovacs runs to first base under the guidance of her U18 buddy Bryce Dobbs Cox and coach Rob Jones-Cook during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Melanie Jones-Cook cheerfully described it as “organized chaos,” in the best possible sense.

Jones-Cook is coordinator of the North Langley Diamond Sports Challenger division, where no score is kept, there are no winners or losers, and kids with cognitive or physical disabilities get to play with the help of volunteer “buddies.”

“It’s so much fun,” Jones-Cook told the Langley Advance Times.

At the season opener, held at at the Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove on Saturday, April 9, buddies from the U18 AA squad helped participants worked on skills and played a game.

It marked a return to normal play for the program, which had to operate a carefully-distanced training camp last year due to the pandemic.

Challenger player Kaden Artemenko throws the ball from second base under the guidance of his U18 buddy Nate Molina during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Challenger player Kaden Artemenko throws the ball from second base under the guidance of his U18 buddy Nate Molina during the Challenger Baseball season opener at Zarrelli Diamond in Walnut Grove. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Jones-Cook explained that with the assistance of the Toronto Blue Jays “Jays Care Foundation” initiative, the program has been able to expand to 25 registered children, with room for more.

Games are held Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at George Zarrelli Diamond.

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Anyone interested in participating, especially prospective volunteers, should contact Jones-Cook online at https://nldiamondsports.ca/challenger-baseball/ or by email at challenger@nlbaseball.ca.

“What I’m really looking for are buddies,” said Jones-Cook.

She added there is also a Challenger program operating in Langley City.

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In Challenger baseball, able-bodied “buddies” are assigned (one-on-one, where possible) to each participant.

The provincial BC Challenger Baseball website notes the goal of the program is to teach athletes living with disabilities core life skills inherent to baseball, including teamwork, communication, determination, resiliency, inclusion, support and courage

“Challenger Baseball ensures every athlete has the opportunity to play in a fun and safe environment where they learn to become more independent, build confidence, improve their communication skills, and set and achieve their own personal goals.”


Is there more to the story? Email: dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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