Venice Challenger athletes write recovery cards for coach Rich Carroll


VENICE – Steve Price gathered the athletes of Venice Challenger Baseball around the home plate on Tuesday night – as he usually does after every game – to guide them in prayer.

This time, as the athletes gathered for a July 4th celebration, they prayed for Venice Challenger baseball coach Rich Carroll, who is currently in rehab at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and his wife Nancy.

“Dear Lord, we thank you for this day and we just thank you for being able to come here and laugh and eat and talk and just be able to see us again,” began Price. “Lord, and we just pray for Coach Rich, we pray for him to get better, we just pray for Coach Rich and Miss Nancy that you will give them comfort and peace and Lord once again, we just thank you for to be able to be here.

“I just pray that you keep everyone safe and healthy, until we can get out here and play ball again – which is going to be very soon.”

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After that, Price led the athletes in a rousing cry of “Amen.”

Tuesday night marked the first time many Challenger athletes have been together since the COVID-19 pandemic cut short their spring season in 2020, when the league played at Chuck Reiter Park.

The hope was for the final game of this season to take place at Challenger Park, the league’s new “Field of Dreams”, which features two fields, one of which has a special rubberized infield for wheelchair participants.

The courts, at 920 Gulf Coast Boulevard, behind the Robert & Joan Lee Boys & Girls Club in Venice, are tailor-made for the Challenger Ball. The rubberized field has a fence about 150 feet from home plate, while the one with a grass infield has them 180 feet.

The Challenger division – which operates under the auspices and insurance of the Venice Little League – is all-inclusive. Some players have Down’s syndrome and others have autism. Some walk with canes, while others go around the base trails.

Before the pandemic, more than 130 athletes competed in both seasons. Guscette said there are at least 80 set to resume play.

“I can’t wait to see a child’s face when the ball goes over a fence, an automatic home run,” said Price.

Steve Price, Venice Challenger Baseball coach, right, led the Challenger athletes in a prayer for coach Rich Carroll on Tuesday night at Challenger Park.  Other than a driving tour of the new complex in September 2020, the athletes had not been together since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a deep field there,” he added, referring to the fields at Chuck Reiter Park.

The league hosted a driving tour of the field on September 26, 2020, when athletes and their families were able to drive past the field and collect a special Challenger Baseball goodie bag.

While some athletes came out and ran the basics, there wasn’t much of a chance for camaraderie.

“This is the first time that they can get together in a small community, engage and have fun and get excited about playing together, which is going to be awesome,” said Lisa Guscette, Director of league marketing. “Just a little way to get together, celebrate July 4th.”

In addition to the individual recovery cards, Venice Challenger Baseball athletes were able to sign a large recovery card for Venice Challenger baseball coach Rich Carroll, who is currently in rehab at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, with a view to be in the field in September.  18, when the next season begins.

They also wrote Carroll individual recovery notes and signed a large recovery card.

Robbie Dixon, 32, has been playing Challenger baseball since the mid-1990s when Carroll and his wife Nancy started Challenger Baseball. His father, Tim Dixon, said since the pandemic they haven’t been doing much.

“You just have to stay home and keep a low profile,” he added.

Hannah Gentry, 17, a Venice high school cheerleader, is looking forward to playing her first Challenger games, once the season resumes in September.

“I really liked it,” she said of the new pitch.

JC Chase said he got back to weightlifting and competed in track and field at the Special Olympics, but wanted to return to the baseball field.

“It feels good after all this waiting,” he said of Tuesday night’s rally.

“Getting the kids out and playing ball is our top priority,” said Mike Beaumier, board member for the nonprofit. “We cut the ribbon on September 18th and we’re going to be playing ball that day and we’re going to be playing from September 18th through Thanksgiving.”

Beaumier of Gilbane Construction, also managed the construction of Challenger Park pro bono.

While approximately $ 80,000 is still needed to install lights and funds are also needed to build shade canopies for the William and Marie Selby Foundation playground and bleachers, the land is practically ready to go. to be used.

Beaumier said the plan is to have Carroll attend the complex’s grand opening, which will include a celebrity challenger match.

Rich Carroll, Venice Challenger baseball coach.

“Rich is doing a lot better, Rich is recovering at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, in rehab,” said Beaumier, who has been chosen as the league’s spokesperson on Carroll’s health.

“He had problems and to respect his family’s preferences, we are not going to talk specifically about what happened,” he added. “But he’s been through them, he’s getting better, he’s in rehab at Sarasota Memorial and we expect him to be here for the dedication ceremony on September 18th.”

The league is hosting a coaches meeting later in July.

While Venice High School sports teams and service clubs typically help out as buddies, while athletes tour the bases, Challenger is always on the lookout for more volunteer buddies. During the season, matches start at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Anyone interested can contact Price at or by phone at 941-223-4852.

“Once someone comes in and partners up, it will change their life,” Price said, “and they’ll want to come back again and again.”


• To learn more about Venice Challenger Baseball or to donate to the resort, visit

• To learn more about how to become a volunteer partner for Challenger games, email Steve Price at or call 941-223-4852.

Earle Kimel primarily covers southern Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be contacted at Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.

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