Kids shout 'Play ball!' to kick off the 2019 Riverhead Little League season . Photo: Courtney Blasl

Riverhead Little League is offering a Challenger Division for the first time this year.

The division provides opportunities to play ball for children with intellectual or physical challenges who can’t otherwise participate in Little League.

“Some kids really love baseball and don’t have an opportunity to play the game themselves,” Riverhead Little League president Jeremy Savio said. “Other kids, all they want is to put on a uniform and play with their friends. This will give boys and girls of all abilities the chance to experience the game as a player and have fun.”

Flexibility and adaptability are key during Challenger games, according to Little League International. Typically, games are one to two innings long and last about an hour. All players play defensively and bat every inning. Players can hit off a tee or coaches can pitch to them, depending on the individual player’s capability.

Coaches and other volunteers — called “buddies” — will be on the field to assist and guide players and ensure their safety.

Riverhead Little League is the first league in District 36 — which covers Suffolk County east of Route 112 — to charter a Challenger Division.

“We felt the time was right to take this next step,” Savio said. “We take pride that we offer the whole community the chance to participate regardless of skill level or financial ability. This was one thing we hadn’t touched yet,” Savio said.

The league hopes to field two teams, he said. Even though Riverhead Little League is chartered for Riverhead Town, the league will be able to enroll nonresidents in the Challenger Division, Savio said.

“We can do it with 14 to 20 kids, but whatever it is we’ll make it work,” he said. “We’re really excited about this.”

The Challenger Division open to boys and girls ages 5 to 12. Registration will begin in December and run through February, Savio said. The season begins in April and concludes at the end of June. The registration fee for this division is $55.

Riverhead Little League registration (all divisions) opens Dec. 1. For more information, visit the Riverhead Little League website.

Questions about the Challenger Division may be directed to league officials by email here.

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