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Second chance at-bat

After hitting the baseball, 6-year-old Taylor Scholar and her mother travel the journey from first base to home plate together. During the run, you can hear the excited shouts of fellow players and spectators lounging on the grass on this cool Mo...

Aaron Atherton, 15, from Moorhead

After hitting the baseball, 6-year-old Taylor Scholar and her mother travel the journey from first base to home plate together.

During the run, you can hear the excited shouts of fellow players and spectators lounging on the grass on this cool Monday evening.

"Go, go!"

"Good job!"

"Nice hit!"


The experience is bonding time for Taylor's mother, Lindsey.

"I share the same excitement she does," Lindsey Scholar said. "I love seeing her excitement and expressions."

Scholar has no choice but to take the journey because Taylor is in a wheelchair. She suffers from cerebral palsy and the effects of shaken baby syndrome.

Being a member of the Fargo-Moorhead Challengers, a baseball team for children with special needs, is a way for Scholar's daughter to be involved in a summer activity.

While she enjoys taking part in the game, pushing the wheelchair while running can wear you out, said Scholar, of Moorhead.

"It's fun, but it's tiring."

The idea for the F-M Challengers began last summer when Karen Swanson and her friend Kendra Routh were watching Swanson's two children, who both have autism, play baseball.

After realizing that there was no local baseball team for children with special needs, they decided to make one, Swanson said.


In April, they sent out fliers to schools and word-of-mouth spread about their team. It didn't take

long for 39 students to sign up,

said Swanson, who is a nurse

at MeritCare Children's

Hospital in Fargo.

"It just took off," the Moorhead resident said. "A lot of people were interested."

The team, which is affiliated with Little League International, is open to children ages 5 to 15. Games were every Monday at 7 p.m.

The players split into two groups and play against each other. Every player gets a chance to bat and play in the field, and nobody strikes out, Routh said.


"We want every kid to get a hit," said Routh, who works as a speech therapist at Pediatric Therapy Partners in Fargo.

Funding for the team came from Clay County Collaborative, Border States Electric Supply and The Forum. Sportland and Scheels, both of Moorhead, also helped with discounts on equipment and uniforms, Swanson said.

Three years of waiting to play on a baseball team again was over for

13-year-old Blake Johnson when he brought the flier home from school.

Blake, who has Down syndrome, had played on baseball teams when he was younger, but as the other children grew older and gained more experience, it became too dangerous, said Blake's mother, Teri Johnson of Fargo.

Watching Blake finally get to play his favorite sport is something she'll never forget, Johnson said.

"It was wonderful," she said. "It was just so exciting to see him run around the bases."

Since receiving their uniforms, Blake's jersey has become his favorite Monday attire, Johnson said.


"He wants to wear it all day on Mondays because it's baseball day," Johnson said.

Hitting the ball and seeing how far it can go gives 14-year-old Kevin Urlacher a sense of pride.

"It went high," Kevin said. "I like to hit the ball."

Watching his son and the other players being so active during the game is what this team is all about, Glenn Urlacher said.

"It's just neat to see these kids participate," the Fargo resident said. "They have a lot of challenges in their lives."

Swanson said players on the team have disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. While they require parents to stay during the game, volunteers help the players throughout the game, she said.

Volunteer Barb Lee of Fargo said it's been a rewarding experience and Mondays are now the highlight of her week.

"It's just been really fun," Lee said. "You get to know the kids."


Lee encourages anybody, even those with limited baseball knowledge, to come out next year and donate their time.

"It doesn't matter if you don't know a lot about baseball, because I'm no expert," Lee said.

Monday's game was the team's last after starting play in June. They celebrated with a pizza party and an F-M RedHawk's game Wednesday.

Routh said there will be an F-M Challengers team next year, as long as people are interested. Seeing the effect the games had on the children is reason enough to keep going, she said.

"The kids are a blast," the Moorhead resident said. "It's so awesome to see smiles on their faces."

Fargo-Moorhead Challengers

- What: A local baseball team for children with special needs.

- Who: The team is open to boys and girls ages 5 to 15.


- When: This season is over. Games were at 7 p.m. Mondays, and the team plans to play again next year.

- How to help: Volunteers are always welcome to help coach and support the players.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jordan Dresser at (701) 235-7311

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