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ALTON—Early this month on a Saturday morning, special needs children yelled joyfully, smiling as they ran across home plate for the first time. Their parents cheered from the sidelines as these children got the chance to do something most kids take for granted – playing a game of baseball.
The Alton Sports Authority is attempting to organize an adaptive baseball league for kids with special needs. The league would allow children with various disabilities to participate as they receive one-on-one assistance from volunteers.
To kickstart the league, the Alton Sports Authority teamed up with Barracudas Sports Complex to host an adaptive baseball game on April 6 at the SSG Bradley Espinoza Ball Park in Alton. They called the game the “Field of Dreams.” The event was designed to allow these children with special needs to a morning long event of adaptive tee ball – on a level they could enjoy. The participants were able to experience teamwork, and develop motor skills using a bat and ball.
Carlos Garza with Alton Sports Authority explained the event was created in hopes of sparking a competitive, adaptive baseball league for the Alton area.
“We want to embrace these children and maybe be able to start a league for them to play,” Garza said. “We wanted to include an age group between 8 and 20 years old. Anybody could participate; we had members of our t-ball league volunteer in a mentoring program.”
Garza said some children were able to run the bases on their own, and others used wheel chairs, but all were able to get the experience of being on the field. Teen and adult volunteers were assigned to each child with special needs to help them swing, run from base to base, and tag members of the opposing team.
“I think at the end of the day, what was so special about it was that our kids that participated felt so good and they had this good feeling all day,” Garza said. “That was what was very rewarding. Our kids felt so good about being able to help others.”
Participants played on offense as well as defense. The game was adapted for the children to touch the base rather than tag people out physically and the children also were able to hit balls off of a tee stand.
The City of Mission Boys & Girls Club is also looking to sponsor an adaptive team. Parent, Norma Cruz spearheaded the idea for a league after her 7-year-old son with special needs expressed an interest in sports while watching his 10-year-old brother prepare his equipment for practice.
She voiced the need for a league, and for more awareness of special needs children who are unique but not different. She said she was not aware of any other sports programs for children special needs the Upper Valley.
While about nine children came out for this first event, 100 children expressed interest in participating, illustrating the need for such a program. Barracudas Sports Complex owner Victor Romo said he was ecstatic about the turnout and said he hopes to have another event in May.
“It could have been 15, 30 or 60 kids here…but I knew that even if one kid came and enjoyed themselves, I’d still be happy,” Romo said.
Marie Romo, who handled promotion and organization of the event, said her family had a blast doing something to help the community.
“We wanted to give back, even it was just for a day,” Marie Romo said. “The City of Alton made it all possible. They gave us the opportunity to come out here and loaned us the field.”
Marie Romo’s son, Dyllon Lopez, said he volunteered his time because he thought it would be fun. Lopez said after the event he knew he had made the right choice; he was happy to see how excited the children were, playing on the field.
Garza said the event is something the group will have to fine-tune, since it was a pilot project. He added a lot of people expressed interest, but it does require a lot of work since it’s not a regular program.
“First and foremost, you know we want them to have the same opportunity that everybody else does,” Garza said.
Alton Sports Authority Sports Director Juan Garcia said they hope to eventually make a PONY league and compete with neighboring cities.
“We heard Mission is starting teams. We would love to start a league and compete with them,” Garcia said. “These kids deserve it.”
Mission Boys & Girls Club Athletic Supervisor Noe Hidalgo said they are currently in the process of filling spaces for two teams to create an adaptive league.
“We have an event on April 22 with the district at the Zone (Action Park) in McAllen,” Hidalgo said. “We will be there passing out flyers and information about the league.”
The Boys & Girls Club is teaming up with Mission Consolidated Independent School District to fill the empty spaces; Hidalgo added he hopes the partnership will set the league in motion.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.