Weingartz Hits Homerun with Challenger Baseball
In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff recognizes Ann Weingartz.
By Judy Currin
Ann Weingartz’s involvement with the Challenger Division of Greenville Little Leagues has brought America’s Pastime to a group of youngsters who, up until 2004, were resigned to sit in the bleachers and watch their siblings play.
The league is designed especially for children ages 5 to 18 who have special needs and who want to play baseball. Players learn not only the fundamentals of baseball, but also how it feels to pull together as a team, to be cheered by family and friends, and to earn rewards for their achievements, said Weingartz, director of University Printing and Graphics at East Carolina University.
“More than the skills of baseball are learned through the experience,” Weingartz said.
“The value of the Little League Challenger Division is found in the proven therapeutic and socialization benefits of participants’ self esteem, the opportunities to mainstream into other divisions of play, and the disciplines of teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play which are hallmarks of the Little League program.”
Co-sponsored with the Greenville Recreation and Parks Department, the Challenger Division plays Saturdays from the end of April through mid-June. The Challenger Division has uniform and team patches, but each team player, whether they are up to bat or out in the field, is assigned a buddy, usually a Little League member who assists players during the game.
No scores are kept, keeping in the spirit of a fun and friendly recreational environment.
As a volunteer for Greenville Little Leagues, Weingartz organizes teams and concession stand workers, coordinates fundraising efforts, and helps with the day to day operations of the league.
She also finds buddies for the Challenger players by coordinating with the Little League team members and volunteer organizations.
Buddies are assigned to assist participants with batting, running the bases and fielding.
“Getting buddies for the Challenger Little Leagues has been easy,” Weingartz said. “The Little League teams always want to come back again and again.”
Weingartz’s involvement with baseball began in 1991, the summer after she graduated from ECU. Her husband, Brian, was an umpire for Greenville Little Leagues.
Over the years, they have been active in expanding the program to include as many children as possible. Their 10-year-old daughter Ashley plays for Physicians East Little League team and volunteers her time to serve as a buddy for Challenger participants.
“The best part of volunteering with Greenville Little Leagues is all the friends, young and old, that I have made over the years,” Weingartz said. “I always look forward to the spring and the start of baseball season.”
Lisa Jordan’s son Spencer participates in Challenger.
“Having Challenger League makes my son’s life a little closer to being typical,” she said.
“He enjoys the social interaction with other players and gets to play a sport like his big brother.”
Challenger League Coach John Harer, ECU professor of library science and instructional technology, said Weingartz and her husband Brian (who serves as the Little League Commissioner) were enthusiastic about adding the Challenger division to Greenville Little Leagues.
“If it weren’t for Ann’s energy and hard work, no one would be able to participate,” Harer said.
“Ann is literally the support beam, nay, the entire foundation for the whole structure of Challenger.”