The Little League Challenger Program is Little League’s adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges. Any individual with a physical or intellectual challenge may participate. The Little League Challenger Division accommodates players ages 4-18, or up to age 22 if still enrolled in school. The Senior League Challenger Division accommodates players ages 15 and above
The Challenger Baseball League (league for kids with special needs) called and asked if they would be able to use the former Little League fields near Founders Square in Portage for their league. They had used this field in the past. Since the fields are owned by the City's Redevelopment Commission, Andy Maletta, from the Portage Economic Development Corporation, called them to see if they could get permission to use the fields for the league.
At their meeting they approved, allowing the use of one of the fields for this league, four Sundays in June, but needed to go through the parks. Maletta is on the Park Board and at the meeting his Superintendent expressed concern on getting the field prepared in time. With such a short deadline, Maletta suggested they find volunteers and he agreed.
He then reached out to Noah Simmons who is the Assistant General Manager and Head Groundskeeper for the Gary Southshore RailCats to ask for their help. He also owns a landscaping company called Simmons Landscaping Solutions. He agreed to get a group of 20 - 25 people including RailCat players, grounds crew, his crew from his landscaping company, some steelworkers and others to fix the field up at no cost to the park or league. “It’s sad that the Portage Little League closed down, but at the end of the day we have to give the kids a place to play, and there’s nobody that deserves this more than these kids. Every kid deserves a place to play baseball,” Simmons said.
Maletta has also added some people from the City Community Development Department and himself from the Portage EDC to paint the buildings at the same time. The Portage EDC will be supplying lunch for the workers. Lance Dawson, the owner of Jimmy John's in Portage, is giving the team a 50% discount on the food. “It has turned out to be a pretty good community event pulling together to make this field available for a really good cause,” Maletta said.