For the past two months, I’ve volunteered as a coach for Challenger Baseball through Clemson University. Challenger Baseball is a program that allows children with disabilities to learn the rules of baseball, as well as teamwork, all while having fun! Since my good friends had all heard me rave about Top Soccer (similar to Challenger Baseball but with soccer as the sport) last semester, I invited them all to be buddies this semester. Katy, Rett, JD, Merrick, Edward, Curt, Neel, Emily, Ashley, Iris and Jessie all were given an athlete to help. These athletes had disabilities that ranged from Downs Syndrome to Autism to Attention Deficit Disorder.
The coaches ran the practices and games and the buddies helped warm up the athletes and taught them the basic skills of baseball. Athletes learned how to step with the opposite foot while throwing, how to properly hold a bat, and that after a ball is hit, you run to first base-not third or the outfield. The athletes are split into two teams and play each other in baseball after warming up. Everyone gets to hit. Everyone gets to run the bases. Everyone wins.
My most memorable moment was a couple of weeks ago with Brandon. Brandon has Cerebral Palsy and played baseball from his wheel chair. When it wasn’t Brandon’s turn to bat, he was allowed to stay on the field and watch his teammates (rather than heading back into the dug-out with the other players). As I was walking to escort the next batter up to the batter’s box, I heard, “Hey coach, HEY HEY coach!” I turned around and saw that Brandon was yelling at me. I walked the batter to the box and then headed back over to talk to Brandon.
“Hey Brandon, How are you doing today?” “Good,” Brandon said. I asked Brandon if he needed anything and he said “nope.” I then figured out that Brandon just wanted to talk. I talked to him about his age, his family, and his favorite sports. Brandon’s #1 sport? Baseball. #2? Softball. 🙂
We talked about his favorite sports teams and he mentioned that he really wanted to go to a Clemson baseball game soon. I told him he would have so much fun! The interaction that I had with Brandon is one that I’ve never had with anyone else in my life. While it was difficult to understand every word that came out of his mouth, I learned more about a little 10-year-old boy than I had before. I learned that sometimes people just want someone to talk to. I’m glad that I got the chance to talk to Brandon. And I hope he makes it to a Clemson baseball game very soon!
It’s hard to explain in one blog post the amount of joy that baseball brought to the athletes’ faces. It’s also hard to describe the amount of happiness that the athletes brought to their buddies and coaches. But I can describe the Challenger Baseball experience in one simple phrase: