TAYLOR, Mich. – One Downriver mother has had enough of the rising costs of travel baseball for her son, so much so that she created a team of her own.
The team now has more than a dozen players, and the community has come together to ensure these kids learn more than just hitting, fielding, and running the bases.
Sara Taylor said her son Kaleb Charboneau played on a local team, but the pandemic hit.
“I’ve been bummed the last two years because I couldn’t play,” said 12-year-old Charboneau.
Taylor wanted to get her son playing again this spring, but then she saw the prices.
“$400 to go to the tournament if they make it, and then most of the kids don’t even play,” said Taylor.
Taylor said she couldn’t afford it, but she did not give up.
“We can’t put our kids in school without worrying,” Taylor said. “You can’t go down the street without worrying. The least we can do is give them a safe place to be kids,” Taylor said.
That’s when the Underdogs were born.
“I get to come here to pitch, bat, relieve all my anger,” Charboneau said. “It keeps me out of the house, and it keeps me distracted from any troubles that I’ve had.”
The team practices three days a week at a field in their neighborhood, and at first, the players were missing a few things. That’s when G-Brand, a Sterling Heights sportswear store, stepped up to the plate.
“Actually, growing up, I was kind of in that same boat,” said Lesley Houghtailing. “My parents and I couldn’t get on a travel team, and they didn’t have a lot of money.”
The two owners donated thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
“(We) donated batting gloves, socks, belts, pants, and jerseys,” Houghtaling said. “It’s something so little, and they’ll keep that in their mind and remember, ‘Hey, someone actually cared and did something for us.’”
That act of kindness inspired Andrew Green, a high school baseball and football coach in the area.
“I came out here the first day, to be honest with you, and saw they didn’t have hardly anything, and that broke my heart,” said Green. “They needed equipment, and somehow Santa Clause came to my house and got them maybe some baseballs, bats, helmets, ball bags, some things they needed.”
Green now mentors Taylor, who the Underdogs now call mama dukes, to up the kids’ game.
“I didn’t think it would ever get this big,” Taylor said. “I just wanted to do the little bit that I could, but when the community started coming together, they did something for these kids; I don’t think they comprehend.”
As she battles stage four kidney cancer, Taylor says this team gives her something to live for.
“At least I’m able to be out there with them,” Taylor said. “I’m fulfilling my dream, I really am. They make me the happiest.”
The Underdogs don’t play against other teams. Instead, they focus on playing the game. The goal is to turn this into a nonprofit so more kids can join the team and maybe have teams across the state.
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