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MISSION—Mission Boys and Girls Club is forming a special baseball and softball league for children with disabilities.

The 2013 Pony Champions League Baseball and Softball is now open for applications from participants, ages 3 to 18. The league divisions include T-Ball and a Coach Pitch Division, based on skill level.

Norma Cruz, of Mission, spearheaded the idea for the league when she noticed her 7-year-old son with special needs develop a great interest in sports.

“I also have a 10-year-old who loves sports, so when I take him to get equipment, my 7-year-old wants to participate also,” Cruz said. “I thought it would be great, the feeling he would get, although he really doesn’t understand the concept. It’s about being a part of a team, wearing a uniform and taking a picture.”

Mission Boys and Girls Club Athletic Supervisor Noe Hidalgo explained this would be the first team of its kind in Mission. The mission of the group is to provide every child, regardless of special needs, the opportunity to participate in baseball or softball.

“Once we accumulate more players, we want compile them into two teams,” Hidalgo said.

Cruz believes this league will not only be a great learning experience, but also give a lot of public awareness about children with special needs who are unique but not different.

“Sometimes, people look at our children funny or criticize,” Cruz said. “This league I hope will maybe let the community know these children are not any different than theirs, and maybe the community will open up to helping.”

Cruz said, currently, there are only two children signed up for the league. She added she recently spoke with Mission CISD Director of Special Education Paula T. Long, who said there are over 1,000 students with special needs in their school district, alone.

“I wish there were more (signed up)…this is open to all ages,” Cruz said. “It’s not about winning, it’s about getting these kids out there so they can be a part of team.”

Long explained flyers were sent home students about the program and she hopes for a possible community fund in the future since participating in this league requires $50 in fees.

“Children who are challenged physically and cognitively, this gets them out into the community,” Long said. “It gives them (students) something to do, besides be at home. We want to involve our kids…they need access to recreational activities and also for employment.”

Long added that since these students stay at home, many stay in day cares as adults. She added many of the children are employable and able to work.

Cruz said this league will not only be fun but therapeutic, and will help kids with socialization issues. Participants will play with a buddy, who will assist them when they are up to bat and running from base to base. Another goal for Cruz in the near future is an aquatics team for children with special needs.

Parents with questions can contact the Boys and Girls Club of Mission at 585-3606 for more information.

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