The 2019 season of Braves Baseball is drawing to a close.
It’s hard to believe that this is already the fifth season of the special needs league administered by the Conway Parks and Recreation Department.
Again this year, Steve Goode sponsored the entire season of Braves Baseball through his Cypress Valley Meat Company, thus there was no charge to any of the participants.
A great big thank you to Steve for doing this.
We play each year in April and May, partly to beat the summer heat.
But the tradeoff at this time of year is a frequent chance of rain. Last year, a couple of nights had to be cancelled.
This season we have been much luckier.
On opening night, it rained the day before and the morning of, but the sun came out after lunch and we were good to go.
Part of the reason is our unique field. It is a rubber composite surface, which is designed for special needs facilities and playgrounds.
It is for hard enough for those in wheelchairs and walkers, yet soft enough to lessen the impact of a fall.
Water also runs off of it, so our chances of playing are greatly increased.
This season was another huge success, as the program saw many returning players plus a bunch of new ones, both young and old.
Some players need a few swings to make contact. But we make sure they all get a base hit.
After a hit, some of the players run to first and stop. Others circle the bases for a home run. A few just run wherever they want, and that is absolutely fine.
All that matters is that after they are done, each one of them has a great big smile on his or her face.
We play three games per night. The opener at 6 p.m. is for kids 12 and under.
Then about 6:45 p.m., we play the 13 and older group, and there is no upper age limit. It too lasts about 45 minutes.
In each of these games, we have “buddies” who help the players as needed. Some require very little help, if any. Other require a lot.
Some players are in wheelchairs and the buddies can assist in pushing them around the bases.
The buddies are usually a youth baseball team, but can be any kind of group, for example a sorority or church group.
For the final contest of the night, we play buddies versus Braves.
We let the buddies bat first, and tell them to score some runs to take a lead. But then of course be sure that the Braves score enough runs to win at the end.
For this game, we bring out a souped-up bat that has a little extra pop to it.
Braves Field is pretty compact, and several of the Braves take pride in cranking out a few home runs over the fence.
May 23 is the final night of Braves Baseball this year.
If you are free, come on out to cheer on these special athletes. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face too.