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Challenger League provides something for everyone

URBANA -- The stars of the Tom Jones Challenger League played on the big stage Thursday night.
URBANA -- The stars of the Tom Jones Challenger League played on the big stage Thursday night. It's an event hosted by the Champaign Kiwanis Club each year. Kids with disabilities are given the chance to play baseball at UI. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield has the story.

Taking over the UI softball fields, these kids are showing they can play ball just like anybody else.

"It's a very encouraging thing. He's applauded. A couple of years ago, when we started this, he was hitting off the tee and couldn't follow the game. He's made a lot of progress."

Tiffany is one of the players too. She has Down syndrome. Her mom says, since she started a few years ago, she's watched her daughter grow.

"She's not much on the outfield, but she likes to hit the ball. We are working on fielding the ball."

But, in this league, the crowd will cheer you on no matter how you play. For decades, the Tom Jones Challenger League has brought hundreds to watch. Thursday was no different.

"We just wanted to show the community what it is that we do and how we play baseball and that it is the best baseball game around."

But, the best part about this game isn't the game at all. It's what kids like Alex and Tiffany and their parents get out of it.

"It's a safe environment where we can relax and just be parents. The kids are just taken care of. They all have buddies and that's a big part of the program. That he can be independent of us."

The league is in its 15th year. It's grown from two teams and 13 players to the current ten teams and more than 100 players.
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