Rising to the CHALLENGE

A laugh swept through the stands at the Challenged Athletes Dream Complex in Victoria as J'Kobe Ellis stepped up to the plate and jiggled his hips.

After completing his signature at-bat dance, the 10-year-old wasted no time in smacking a pitch into the infield.

"I think it motivates him to be a bit more active," J'Kobe's mother, Myrtle Ellis, said as she watched from the dugout. "He likes being around the other kids as well."

Founded in 1993, the Victoria Challenger Little League has been giving 4- to 22-year-old kids with mental and physical disabilities a chance to play baseball on a team.

Tossing pitches on the May 16 game was Sheila Arnold, treasurer for the league as well as a mother of two players.

"We want them to build friendships and camaraderie," Arnold said.

In the first inning, Arnold's son, Travis Noack, 17, took to the plate and pointed his bat upward in an homage to American baseball hero Babe Ruth's called home run shot.

Noack then blasted a fly ball over the heads of the outfielders and rounded the bases - stomping on home plate with gusto as his teammates surrounded him.

The camaraderie Arnold spoke of was immediately evident.

"They are all winners," Arnold said. "They're just like the rest of us."