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7's HERO: Challenger Little League has brought joy to Idaho players and families for over 30 years

Challenger Little League baseball is open to all people in the Treasure Valley with special needs or disabilities, and no one is turned away.

BOISE, Idaho — Have you heard of Challenger Little League? It's a baseball league in the Treasure Valley for kids and adults with special needs and it has been around for over thirty years.

"It is a division that is in little league, and it started in the valley 33 years ago," Tammy Cluff said. "But, when I went to sign my son up for the next year, they had canceled it. I said oh no! So, I took it over and it's been 32 years for me now." 

Parent Tammy Cluff has been running Challenger Baseball League ever since. The league plays at McDevitt Park in Boise from March through June. Saturday nights are game nights. The best night of the week. 

"It's for anyone that doesn't feel comfortable playing in a regular league, it's for anyone that has special needs of any kind. It starts at the age of four, and up," Cluff said. "The thing I love about Challenger, there is no competition. We don't keep score! And somehow at the end of the game everyone is tied, and it's a win for all. We have what we call Challenger buddies, other leagues come out and help the players! The parents are wonderful."  

Parents just like Piper Morse. Her 7-year-old son Grayson plays on a Challenger team. This is his second year. 

"When he was younger, and he got diagnosed I never thought he'd be able to play on a sports team. So, when I heard this was available to all kids with all abilities I signed him up right away," Morse said. 

Grayson has a rare disease called Krabbe leukodystrophy

"It's a neurological disease, and it takes away his ability to walk, or move his arms and legs, and to eat on his own," Morse said. "I'm trying to give him the best life possible, the best memories, keep him as happy and healthy as he can be, and he's a happy little kid. We love him so much and he inspires so many people."  

For Piper and Grayson, playing is a joint effort. 

"I hit the ball for him of course, but his eyes get really big, and everyone is cheering for him so I know that makes him feel really good," Morse said. "So, I just grab his hands and I get the bat and I hit the ball for him. I run him around the bases. I just love it."

This season, there were twelve teams and over 150 players in the league. Cluff loves seeing the players and their families enjoy it so much. 

"Oh, it means a lot to me," Cluff said. "The players are all special to me, and I still call them my kids. I don't care if they are adults, they are still my kids."  

Morse says she was nervous at first, but she's so glad she signed Grayson up to play. 

"I was wondering, are we going to be accepted? But everyone was so nice and so welcoming. I say, if you have any hesitations, you should do it, because it's such an amazing experience no matter what ability your child has," Morse said. 

Cluff says any child or adult with any disability can be a part of this league. 

"They can do it," Cluff said. "I say just come out and try."  

For parents like Morse, this league means so much. She said that she is making amazing memories with her son. 

"Oh my gosh, I just applaud them so much for putting so much effort into this league. There are so many teams, so many abilities, so many ages, and to have this as parents, it's just so amazing, she said."  

The good news is, Cluff said she is not going anywhere. Challenger Little League is here to stay. 

"Because I love it. Some people say are you going to quit? I say no, they are going to bury me on these fields," Cluff said. 

This is a district wide league for the whole Treasure Valley. The season starts in April and goes through June, ending with a big family picnic! Teams are set by age and ability, and no one is turned away. Registration starts in January. They are always looking for volunteers! 

The fee to play is $40. To register for the 2024 season in January, e-mail Tammy Cluff at IDChallenger@aol.com or call 208-362-3072. The league also has a Facebook group that you can join

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