Little League Bends Age Rule So Developmentally Disabled Man With No Family Can Join

When the Challenger Division of Santa Clara's Westside Little League takes to the field, a blind eye is often turned to the strict rules of baseball.

javiers game 2

No one keeps track of balls or strikes, hits or errors, wins or losses.

It is because the smiles, laughs, and joy that inevitably result are well worth any minor infractions that may have been overlooked.

It stands to reason, then, that when the league's managers recently bent the rules for one player in particular, Javier Gamarra, wonderful things ensued.

The league's rules state that Challener program is open to those under the age of 22 but co-managers Noelle Boccignone and James McLachlan allowed Gamarra, at twice that age, to join the team.

javiers game 6

"He's really experiencing joy for the first time in his 44 years on this earth," said Terry Downing, the mother of one of Gamarra's teammates and the person who got the (base)ball rolling for Gamarra.

Downing's daughter, Tessa, is also a housemate of Gamarra's at a Helping Hands group home in Milpitas. Everytime Downing would come to visit her daughter and take her out on weekends, she noticed no one ever doing the same for Gamarra.

She soon learned that he had no family. "He was abandoned at the age of 3 and institutionalized every since," Downing said.

javiers game 5

So, she went looking for something fun he could do outside of the home. Gamarra liked baseball, and the Challenger program is free, so Downing thought it might be a good fit.

Except for that age limit.

It took only one phone call from Downing to Boccignone and McLachlan to throw that rule out.

"I was on the phone with (McLachlan) and he said, 'It's ulimited age now. Javier's on the team,'" Downing said.

"There's no doubt about it. Not one second," Boccignone said. "I texted James and said we got to take him on. But we have to order a bigger sized shirt."

Gamarra is now a regular at the Challenger Division's games on Sundays. He is paired, like all the other participants with a "buddy", a player from the league's other divisions.

jjaviers game 1

"He is ecstatic," Downing said. "I am so thrilled that he has finally found a community."

Gamarra's skills are getting better with each game he plays. His life is getting richer with each passing week.

"He's having so much fun," Boccignone said. "He has friends."

"Javier is a family member on our Challenger team," McLachlan said.

Contact Us