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Game provides special needs youth a day to be like every other kid

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By Sharon Graves

Children all over the United States await the advent of spring and the beginning of the baseball season. High school all the way down to t-ball teams are being selected and play is beginning on the many ball fields around Carroll County.

This past weekend my husband Jim and I had a wonderful opportunity to see the purest form of baseball on a rubberized field in Bay Creek Park in Gwinnett County, Ga. 

A group of special needs children ages 6-8, began their season Saturday starting with team and individual pictures. 

Trying to get a group of special needs children standing together in any type of formation is a trial in itself, and while it may have been stressful for some of their parents, it sure was fun to watch as an interested observer.

Faith Williamson, 7, is my niece and this is her team. 

She was adopted from India and has cerebral palsy. She can walk with crutches or a walker and can light up the world with her smile. She has black hair, dark eyes and dark skin. Faith has an imagination like no one I’ve ever known. Her world is smaller than children who can walk and run with ease, so her imagination carries her to places she may not get to in another way.

Saturday was an uncharacteristically cool and windy Georgia morning.  

Faith put on her red team shirt and hat with Angels written across the front. She got her individual picture and her team picture taken just like other kids across America.

The photographer and her helper had their work cut out for them as they tried to keep children able to walk from escaping while those in wheel chairs were easier to contain. 

The children were proud of their uniforms and their teammates, just like other kids, but their attention spans were shorter. One little guy had to be rounded up several times until finally the photographer cried uncle saying she thought she had something she could use.

Later in the morning Faith’s team would play baseball on a special needs field that was flat and made of rubber. 

The Angels would have the ball pitched by a machine and parents would help each child get around the bases.

They didn’t realize their field was different, their rules were different or that they were different. They were playing the all American game and enjoying the outdoors just like other kids.  

There’s not much difference in distance between a home run and a two bagger, a single and a triple or a base on balls and strike three. 

There’s not a lot of difference between the Angels or any other team their age, but the Angels only play for fun. 

They aren’t hoping to make the all-star team or play on the varsity squad. They play Saturday to Saturday, moment to moment. They don’t have parents hounding them over a mistake or expecting them to be the star of the game. They have parents that are glad they’re alive and hope that from the fresh air and physical activity their children will gain strength and stamina and sleep well. 

Every hour of every day is a struggle for these parents and their children, but for an hour on Saturday there is only fun and baseball — just like every other kid.

Sharon Graves is a resident of Ghent, Ky. and is a former staff writer for The News-Democrat.