Yesterday was our city's 4th of July parade and Jeremiah was invited to ride in the Buddy Baseball float with his sister Michaela and friend Sam. Both Micky and Sam are buddies to team players.
Buddy Baseball changed Jerry's life for the better nearly eight years ago. We had tried traditional little league for Jerry, but with all of the rules, the uncertainty of him making it to bat before his team was struck out, and the demands of the outfield, it was nothing short of disastrous. Nothing like seeing a kid meltdown and lose it on 2nd base, screaming and arms flailing while he kicks the dirt into red dust clouds of anger. Not pretty.
Buddy Baseball is baseball for special needs kids. There are no outs or innings and everyone gets a chance to bat every time their team is up. The games last one hour, there are no practices, and they play just once a week. If the ball makes it past the infield, it's a home run. Every parent cheers on every child, whether or not they are on their child's team. The announcers encourage the kids, tell the fans in the stands an interesting, funny, or quirky fact about the kids as they come up to bat, and the coaches are ready at home plate with high-five's and hugs.
The best part about Buddy Baseball is the buddies. Jeremiah has had the same buddy every year and season since he started playing. Her name is Jenny and he loves her. Jenny helps him choose his bat, runs the bases with him, and sits in the dugout with him, helping him stay hydrated and be patient until it's his turn to bat. And she talks to him about whatever Jerry wants to talk about, which takes lots of patience, a willingness to repeat oneself, and a desire to talk about monster trucks and seem truly interested! You can see Jenny with Jerry and Coach Pat in the picture above.
Michaela has been a buddy for as long as Jerry has played. The opportunity has bred compassion, patience, selflessness (as it's all about her player and not her out on that field), an unconditional love for others, and a realization that the world does not revolve around her. Nor are her circumstances as a sibling to a special needs child as difficult as they could be. And those lessons are all invaluable life lessons that I wish I had learned as a teenager and am thankful she has the opportunity to through Buddy Baseball.
And Jonathan, Jeremiah's oldest brother who was a buddy for one season, has decided to return this next season to be on the coaching staff now that he is an adult and has more predictable work hours. My heart is full.
The program is affordable for those of us already strapped with therapies, medications, counseling, and school fees. It includes a shirt, a hat, and a trophy at the end of the season. We also end each season with a baseball bash that gives the kids an opportunity to socialize and hang out with each other off the field. More importantly, it gives us parents an opportunity to fellowship with other parents who "get it," while parents of buddies learn more about our everyday lives as special needs parents and learn to sympathize and be supportive of us.
So thankful God brought Buddy Baseball to our community. Though friendships forged and lessons learned, it has sown seed that we will be reaping the benefits of for years to come.
I am a Christian. I am a wife. I am a mom. I am an author. In that order.