During summers in the Midwest, ball fields buzz with excitement on weekends. Parents coach the baseball teams, kids play the game, siblings linger in the stands, and grandparents cheer the loudest. Ball games are when families come together to chat about the week, enjoy hot dogs from a concession stand, and shout words of encouragement for pint-sized family members as they round the bases.
Everyone Can Play
Every family should have this opportunity, including children with physical, cognitive, or emotional disabilities. I'm proud to say I live in a community that hosts an adaptive league for kids that might otherwise not have the option to play ball.
At first glance, there's not much that stands out at the Challenger Division ball diamonds in my town. The metal bleachers shine in the sun, while the fresh scent of popcorn lingers in the air. Coaches arrive early, toting bags of helmets and bats to each of the fields, prepping for the teams who will soon show up. That's when the landscape begins to look a little different from other baseball complexes.
As the players arrive, vans line up to use the handicap-accessible unloading zone. Players scramble to their dugouts using walkers, leg braces, and wheelchairs. The energy in the air is invigorating as the fields fill with happiness and anticipation for the games ahead, with coaches giving pep talks and reading off batting lineups. That's when the volunteers spring into action: Since some players can't swing a bat or run the bases, they have kindhearted buddies of a similar age by their side to assist.
After the national anthem plays, it's time to play ball!
The Power of Baseball
It's amazing to watch how a simple first pitch can transform a dusty patch of Iowa ground into a healing zone. Friendships are formed, fears are overcome, and laughs fill the air. Everyone gets a chance to whack the ball, round the bases, and feel the joy of crossing home plate, with no players left on the bench.
For a few hours each weekend, the power of baseball closes the gap between kids with limitations and those without limits. When a team scores, everyone feels the accomplishment and shares in the joy. And every kids gets the chance to go home in a dusty, stained uniform.
For some players, baseball is more than a game — it's a supportive community.
Image source: Bigstock
Posted in More Than a Game