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Buddy Program at Cupertino Little League

What is the Buddy Program? 

Buddies are individuals who assist Challenger athletes in the areas of batting, base running, and defense, but only as needed. Often buddies are peer athletes who are participating in the Little League Baseball program. The main idea of Challenger Buddies is to help provide protection if needed when the Cupertino A's Challenger athletes are on the field. For instance, in case a line drive is hit, or a hard-thrown ball is heading toward a player, a buddy is there to catch it or knock it down.

Challenger games last about one hour and have two innings; everyone on the team hits. So both teams get two times at bat. Challenger teams follow tee ball rules, with coach-pitch. Everyone hits and everyone advances one base, except for the last batter who is the "home run" hitter and runs all the bases. When the home run hitter is running, courtesy dictates that everyone waits for the player to make it home before heading into the dugout. 

Sometimes when a ball is hit, the coaches will throw out extra balls so the players have more opportunities to participate by catching and throwing. Though the defense may make plays to try to get a runner out, the runner is never out. They stay on the base and will advance when the next batter hits.

Challenger players and their buddies warm up together for about 30 minutes before each game, which is a great time for buddies to help with the warm ups and allow the players and buddies to get to know each other. 

Other aspects of the program include providing guidance (helping direct players around the bases) and building camaraderie between special needs kids and those without special needs.

Each team in the Minors, Majors, and Juniors Divisions "buddies up" with the Challenger As for at least one game during the season.  

Buddy Reflections:
In seven years of coaching I have been very proud of my players for many different reasons on the field (great play, smart play, hustle, etc.) and in many instances off the field (kindness, good teammate, guidance, etc). I have never been more proud of a group of players.

The Juniors players were highly engaged and helpful, regardless of their level of familiarity with the population of people with special needs. Some of the Challenger players needed very little assistance, while others needed full assistance. The consistency amongst the Challenger players was the sheer joy that they got from just being on the baseball field, being in uniform as part of a team, and playing a game that they love. I realized that this is no different than the reasons why our Juniors players enjoy playing baseball. The Challenger players' happiness was mirrored in the faces of the Juniors players as they found ways to improve the experience. 

A person wiser than me on the subject of people with special needs said, "It often takes a common thread to make you realize that you are more similar than you are different." I know that I was impacted by this program and I hope the players were too. We hope to continue our involvement in this program in the future.

-- Coach Brian Ota, 2017 Juniors Reds

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