Wakefield Challenger Little League starting 25th year

Mar 6, 2019 by

Published March 6, 2019

WAKEFIELD — One of Massachusetts’ first Little League Challenger Divisions is about to start its 25th year in Wakefield. The Challenger Division is Little League’s adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges. It accommodates children from ages 4-18 or up to 22 if still enrolled in school.

Wakefield Challenger was one of the first of its kind in the area. Players do not have to live in Wakefield to participate, but many of the surrounding towns now also have their own Challenger Leagues. In addition to Wakefield children, there are also kids from Malden, Andover, Wilmington, Melrose and other towns that play on the Wakefield Team.

THE KOEHLER’S are back to lead the Wakefield Challenger Little League into its 25th season. Pictured here with player Maria Person are coaches Maureen and John Koehler. (Courtesy Photo)

Wakefield residents John and Maureen Koehler and Stephen Conroy have been coaching the program for most of its existence. The Koehlers also serve as Directors. Their daughter Erin coaches now too.

“When we first started, we had maybe eight kids and we played behind the Greenwood School on the asphalt parking lot,” said Conroy. “But as the program grew over the years, we were fortunate enough to be assimilated into the main Wakefield Little League program.”

Conroy says that the program has grown to about 30 kids now.

“We split them into four teams, two younger teams and two teams for the older kids with more experience.”

They now play all their games at the Little League complex on Water Street.

“No more parking lots!” joked Conroy.

COACH Stephen Conroy with Wakefield Challenger player Jennifer Willoth. (Courtesy Photo)

The Wakefield Little League also sends teams to “buddy” up with the Challenger players when they aren’t scheduled to play in their own games on a particular day. They come in their full uniforms.

“Our players love when their peers come down to help us out and buddy up. And I think the other teams really enjoy it too, it’s definitely a win, win,” said Conroy.

The Challenger League season begins May 1 and continues on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings through the end of June. Thanks to the dedication of people like Conroy and the Koehlers, the league is stronger than ever and hoping to gain even more participants this season.

“Without the Koehlers, I’m not sure our program would’ve survived this long,” said Conroy. “They are the backbone. I hope we can continue to do it for the foreseeable future, because we really love it and more importantly, the kids have a blast. That’s what’s so rewarding to us.”

If anyone has a child that might be interested in playing Challenger Baseball, they can contact John and Maureen Koehler at john.maureen.koehler@gmail.com or Stephen Conroy at reel2or@aol.com.

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