Salida Challenger Baseball league a hit

jjardine@modbee.comApril 29, 2013 

From the emails, voice mails and other trusted sources:

CHALLENGER LEAGUE — Friday evening, and most spring and summer Saturday mornings, the Giants and Angels baseball teams face off at the Salida Little League field on Broadway.

The standings are pretty much irrelevant, though you could make the point that it's one heck of a division rivalry, since they are the only two teams in the division or, for that matter, the entire league.

Welcome to Challenger Baseball, the best league you've never heard of. The 20 players range in age from 5 to about 17. Some are deaf or blind. Some are in wheelchairs. Others have disabilities including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or autism.

NelLaine Kilgore, mother of one of the players, said many of the children begin playing with the typically developing kids until it's time to face live pitching. But as the skill levels progress, some physically cannot adjust while others need to play in an environment where their emotions, reactions and behaviors are accepted.

"It's a place where the parents can take their kids," she said. "No judgments. We get it. And it's more than just kids playing. It's a good resource for the parents. A support group. We've all walked a mile in their moccasins."

The only drawback is that where the league once drew players from Manteca, that city started its own league. So now, they're looking for more players — enough to expand the league by a few teams to give more children the chance to participate, and so that the Giants and Angels will get to play teams besides each other.

They will compete in a Challenger tournament in Dublin next month.

If interested, call coaches Jeff Mansell at (209) 499-0587 and Felix Daclan at (209) 807-9071 or Little League President Brandt Evans at (209) 345-2820.

WOUNDED WARRIOR READY — In December, I wrote about Steve Davis, a Turlock man and Navy aviation engineer who nearly died in a motorcycle accident just hours after completing an assignment on the USS John Stennis carrier. He suffered gruesome internal injuries plus a broken pelvis and hand, knee and nerve damage.

Davis spent three years in rehab before deciding to try paralympic sports. He was invited to the Wounded Warrior Pacific Trials in November and excelled in five events — archery, two swimming races, wheelchair basketball and sit-down volleyball.

In April, Davis traveled to Penn State University to participate in a camp for sit-down volleyball and wheelchair basketball, and recently was featured in America's Navy online publication.

He's been training at InShape Fitness gym in Turlock.

Next up: The national Warrior Games beginning May 11 in Colorado Springs. He's ready.

MEMORIES, BY GEORGE — After country music legend George Jones died last week, I received a call from Bill Slayter, music buff and publisher of a free local magazine called Zorch.

His call reinforced the notion that just about every well-known person or major event has some connection to Modesto or the valley, no matter how tenuous.

Slayter recalled that Jones was booked to perform at Modesto's Lonesome Cowboy saloon on Sisk Road in the early 1980s, but failed to appear and hence gained the nickname of "No-Show Jones" around town.

So I pulled the clippings. Indeed, Jones delayed for a day a scheduled Oct. 16, 1981, show, claiming travel problems. Then he missed the next day's performance as well, leaving 1,100 ticket holders angry and costing club owner Ed Brown $25,000 in sales and profits at the saloon and restaurant, plus $5,000 in wasted advertising costs.

This happened after Jones had been hospitalized for alcoholism, his agent told The Bee at the time, and the Lonesome Cowboy wasn't his only no-show venue.

No matter. Brown promptly filed a $30,000 lawsuit in Stanislaus County Superior Court against Jones and his booking agency, Jim Halsey Co. Inc.

They avoided court when Jones agreed to perform two shows Feb. 8, 1982. Jones arrived on time this time, but became frustrated with the sound system's feedback. He walked off the stage repeatedly during the second show, the third time for good.

"It ended in a wild melee of several hundred disgruntled fans throwing beer bottles as Jones walked off the stage a half hour into the second show," The Bee reported.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.

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