ELLSWORTH — Ellsworth Challenger Little League has made it its mission to ensure kids of all ages and abilities in the city have the chance to play baseball. Next weekend, it’s taking that effort to the state level.
Teams from Saco, Thomaston and other communities throughout Maine are set to descend on Ellsworth for the inaugural Maine State Challenger Jamboree at Demeyer Field. The event will be a chance for leagues throughout the state to play games against new teams and show the growth of Challenger baseball everywhere.
“We wanted to create an event that would bring new teams and new faces to Ellsworth,” said Todd Wagstaff, one of the league’s co-founders. “This is a great way for us to learn about some of the other leagues around the state and also get ready for [our own league’s] new season with an event the kids will all love.”
The history of Little League Challenger in Maine is a fairly recent one. The program first began providing Little League opportunities to children with special needs in the state in 1989, but Ellsworth and most other Challenger leagues are new to the scene and still in their early stages.
“Some of these leagues haven’t been around that long, and everyone out there is always wondering how they can improve their leagues and make the experience even better,” Wagstaff said. “We’re willing to do whatever we can to make it the best it can be for the kids, and this is going to be a great way to do that.”
Since its formation in 2015, Ellsworth Challenger Little League has begun its own season with a weekend jamboree that’s brought yard games, face-painting, food, local fire departments and, of course, baseball to DeMeyer Field. Word got out about the popular events, and when other leagues around the state asked earlier this year, the league decided to throw a much bigger event a week before starting its own season.
This year, the league has decided to hire a new leader for its buddy program. To do so, it reached out to none other than Ellsworth Athletic Director Josh Frost.
Frost oversaw the addition of unified basketball at Ellsworth High School last year. The Challenger board knew he’d be a natural fit to help recruit students to assist players with special needs in another sport, and when it reached out to him in April, he was quick to accept the offer.
“Being in that position I’m in with kids as the athletic director, I’m able to get buddies for the program,” Frost said. “It’s a great chance to make sure programs like these continue to grow, and it’s also pretty great to see people in Ellsworth working to do that.”
The festivities, which are sponsored by Machias Savings Bank, will start at 10 a.m. next Saturday, Aug. 19, and will continue through Sunday afternoon. Ellsworth Challenger Little League will open its own season at 10 a.m. Aug. 26 and will continue to hold games at that time each Saturday until closing ceremonies Oct. 7.