JOHNNY FLORES, JR/Coachella Unincorporated
COACHELLA — Javier Avila and Calani Raceles are two young men with mental challenges doing the unimaginable — playing baseball.
“At first, my son didn’t even want to show up. He couldn’t catch a ball, let alone hold a bat. Through this program his hand eye coordination skills have improved, and he can do all those things,” says Enia Raceles, Calani’s mother. “Now he looks forward to each Friday so he can hit again and talk to his baseball friends.”
Both Javier and Calani are players in Challenger division of Coachella Little League. The program is made up of over twenty physically and mentally challenged young people, ages 11 to 23, with disabilities including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. The division started in 2010 and is the only one in the Coachella Valley.
“As the only division of its kind here in the Coachella Valley, we want to teach everyone with a disability that you can play a sport and that it is possible,” says Esmeralda Ortega, vice president of the Challenger division.
Every Friday at 7 p.m. at Bagdouma Park, these young people get together under the guidance of dedicated volunteers of all ages. Together, they work on the fundamentals of hitting and catching and conclude with a game against each other or against another team.
But this isn’t an ordinary game. The score is not kept. There are no outs recorded, and each player must bat and record a hit before the next side can do so.
Read more at Coachella Unincorporated