After years of volunteer service as a coach and commissioner with the Cleburne Baseball and Softball Association, Dwayne Griffith is ready to hit a homerun for a new initiative to engage and involve children in the game he loves.
Griffith, the architectural design and construction trades teacher at Cleburne High School, is serving as the designated hitter in establishing a Champions League within CBSA for children with physical or intellectual disabilities that may prevent them from participating in a traditional baseball or softball program. Registration will open in July, in anticipation for the first fall season of “friendly and non-competitive” games in tee ball and coach pitch softball and baseball for ages 5-21. There is no cost to participants registering for the Champions League, which will include a free cap and shirt.
“Several years ago I encountered a situation in which the parent of a child with special needs was hopeful he could stay in tee ball rather than moving up to the next playing level,” Griffith said. “We weren’t able to do that and I felt bad about it—and those feelings never went away. When I found out about a PONY Baseball Champions League in Louisiana, I contacted the program and got all the details. I’ve been working on this a good year, but it’s been in the back of my mind for much longer.”
Once he felt he had enough data to craft a proposal, Griffith went to the CBSA Board of Directors about the possibility of sponsoring a Champions League.
“I had been off the Board for a year when I went to them about this,” he said. “They agreed to start a program—if I would get back on the Board. I believe the Champions League is something we can do, but I can also see it expanding into other sports, such as basketball and soccer. I think we’re going to find this is really good for children and our community.”
Cory Borden, who has just joined the CBSA governing board and also serves as director of the CISD Special Education Department, is among those helping to spread the word about the Champions League.
“When I was approached by Mr. Griffith to help get the word out, it was something I was happy to do,” Borden said. “I think it will be great for Cleburne and Johnson County kids to participate in a league of their own and to be active. I’m not aware of anything like this locally that is specifically designed for special needs, outside of the Miracle League in Arlington.”
“We have had good response to our department’s Facebook posting about the program,” Borden said. “I think we have people who are excited about this, and parents appreciative of this.”
The CBSA Board has already received a nod from the city for the availability of two fields at the Sports Complex that can be utilized for Champions League games.
“We look forward to working with CBSA and making fields available for all to play, for the enjoyment of our community,” Cleburne Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Dobson said. “I’ve seen leagues like this formed in other communities. It’s wonderful to see people, and participants, involved in doing something fun.”
Age groups for Champions League baseball and softball players are 5-8; 9-12; 13-16 and 17-21, based on relative age and skill level. Each player will bat and play defensively each inning. On the field will be volunteer “buddies” who will play an assisting role in the game.
“Each player will have a buddy, if needed, to help them on the field in catching the ball, getting around the bases or at bat,” Griffith said. “Buddies are just there to assist and can be parents and community volunteers, but I hope to have high school kids as well because they need to be involved in community service, in learning how to give back. I’m a grandparent and don’t run much anymore, but I still like to be involved. I’m hoping to have a great response to our need for Buddies.”
Borden said his softball-playing daughter, who will be in the third grade, is hoping to be among the Buddies.
“I think we’ll see kids of all ages wanting to be involved as volunteers,” he said. “In Cleburne ISD, we have Partners in PE at both the middle schools and high school and it’s been fantastic. It’s a blessing for both sides.”
Griffith is also hoping to hear from members of the home town crowd wishing to help with uniform and equipment costs.
After 30 years of cheering, coaching and coordinating Cleburne’s recreational baseball and softball programs, Griffith may have thought he had passed the torch, with his son serving as CBSA president and daughter coaching Cubbies softball.
Instead, he has found himself back in the game, coaching a grandson in tee ball and now, creating a new league for champions he hopes will love baseball as much as he.
Information on the CBSA Champions League is posted at https://www.cleburnebaseball.com/ with registration for the fall season opening in July.
Dwayne Griffith is hoping to hit a home run for all kids in the establishment of a Champions League through the Cleburne Baseball and Softball Association. Registration for the Champions League fall baseball and softball playing seasons for ages 5-21 will open in July.