The Bartlett Little League Challenger Division officially started in 1994(a variation of the program
started a few years earlier) and was one of the first little leagues in our area to have such a program for mentally and physically challenged youth. Also being part of one of the largest Little League's under one board with over 1000 players allowed us to initiate a unique buddy system that rotates every week using our Little League and other organizations.
The league started out with 2 teams, the Cubs and White Sox and as the league started to grow we went to 4 teams there were 2 Cubs teams (home and away) and 2 White Sox teams (home and away). As the league continued to grow, the league expanded to 6 teams and over time had a 5 + year run with 100 players hitting a plateau of 138 players.
Starting in 2011 our player number drop to 80 and 2012 was 50 players. The decrease has been attributed to our longevity, we started to have players age out along with creations of other special needs baseball leagues over the years that gave families options closer to their homes. In 2013 with new and renewed partnerships with School District 54 (Schaumburg) and U46 (Elgin) Special Olympics and Special needs groups we increased the league 60% up to 76 players with another increase in 2014 to 96.
In 2015 besides the popular Challenger Division, Bartlett Little League chartered a new Senior Division. Currently we have 7 Challenger teams, 3 Senior teams with 119 total players.
In 2016 the Challenger division had 6 teams and the Sr division had 4 teams with 115 total players. We also started our Advanced Play Challengers teaching players true baseball skills.
Bartlett Little League and its Challenger Division has been a leader since its inception to help other municipalities inside and outside of Little League International explore and understand Challenger style programs. We have been very fortunate to have a very small turnover of coordinators that have volunteered over the 18 + years, and Bartlett Little League has allowed them to make it one of their missions to be accessible to any organizations interested in looking into this type of program.
In 2009 Bartlett Little League Challenger Division was excited to be part of helping another Illinois District 13 league, Tri-Cities Little League start their own Challenger league with initial advice and mentoring, which in turn saw Tri-Cities who had grew their program by leaps and bounds helped Woodstock Little League in 2012 start their own league making Illinois District 13 to support three challenger divisions. In 2013 Libertyville Little League joined District 13, and with that move we added their long running Challenger program for a total of four programs in our District.
The Bartlett Little League Challenger Division also has been proactive in being messengers of
Challenger baseball, having initiated stories through different media outlets including our local and
regional newspapers, embracing social media along with having a story dedicated to the Bartlett
program that was aired on the local ABC Chicago affiliate in 2007.
In December 2012, Bartlett along with our partner Challenger programs in Little League District 13 were selected to play in the Challenger Exhibition game in Williamsport, PA at the Little League World Series against California District 57 August 24, 2013
Bartlett Little League is proud of our Challenger history, to be part of Little League’s Illinois District 13. Bartlett Little League Challengers has shown itself as a leader and one of the largest single Little League Challenger baseball (buddy ball) programs in the nation, with its overwhelming commitment to this program. We are extremely proud to continue to be part of the solution for our community as one of the oldest running Challenger leagues in the Chicagoland area.