Unified basketball has been one of the most popular additions to the Maine high school sports scene in recent years.
Efforts also are continuing around the region to expand offerings to youths and young adults with developmental challenges in another sport.
The Ellsworth Little League offers a Little League Challenger division that will host the 2019 Maine State Challenger Little League Jamboree on Aug 24 at Demeyer Field.
A similar program stemming from the Babe Ruth franchise of youth baseball, Bambino Buddy-Ball, will be held on four Sunday mornings in June in Old Town.
Participants will take part in baseball games aided by a “buddy,” typically either a parent or volunteer who can assist the player if needed in such phases of the game as swinging the bat, catching a ball or running the bases.
The program is a collaboration between the Eastern Maine Baseball League program of the Old Town Recreation Center and The Courageous Steps Project, an organization founded by Connor Archer of Stillwater in 2014 to support individuals with developmental disabilities.
The 21-year-old Archer lives with autism and has been a staunch advocate for people with developmental challenges while working as a program coordinator at the Old Town Recreation Center. Archer also is continuing his studies at Husson University in Bangor, where he is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in web design and marketing with plans to attain his master’s in business administration by 2021.
“As it is a very new program here, we’re hoping to have a dozen kids this year if not more,” Archer said. “Basically this year it’s about getting the word out and starting to get some kids involved, and then next year we really hope to grow Bambino Buddy-Ball.”
The Old Town Recreation Center and its baseball program has purchased a charter with Babe Ruth Baseball and as part of that relationship is able to offer that franchise’s Bambino Buddy-Ball program.
“When I talked to Connor about Bambino Buddy-Ball being something that might pique his interest, the minute I started talking about it he jumped all in and said this would be something that fits exactly with the mission and values of Courageous Steps,” said Adam Mahaney, Old Town Recreation Center program director.
The inaugural season of Bambino Buddy-Ball is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to noon on June 2, 9, 16 and 23.
Cost for the four-week program is $10 per player, but scholarships are available through The Courageous Steps Project for interested persons who may not be able to afford the fee. For more information on the scholarships, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For general inquiries or registration information about the Bambino Buddy-Ball program, email email@example.com.
Mahaney, who also operates a fall youth baseball program in the region through the Eastern Maine Baseball League, sees considerable potential in the concept being put forth by Bambino Buddy-Ball.
“This is an avenue that maybe someday down the road the MPA (Maine Principals’ Association) might explore doing a unified baseball or even a unified softball program, something that allows those kids to play to continue to play or play for the first time if they haven’t played before,” he said.