Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Rivermont Youth Athletic Association is celebrating 25 years of offering Dream League baseball for local special needs players.
“A boy that lost both legs below the knee and all of his fingers on one hand and had a finger and a thumb on the other hand wanted to play baseball on the Dream League,” said Dream League coach and commissioner David Dake. “He hung the bat across his body and swung his whole body to get a hit and he took off running to the bases.”
Another triumph was watching a young lady learn how to hit the ball one-handed while sitting in her wheelchair, he said.
“The major rule is everyone bats every inning,” said Dake, who began working with the league upon its inception. “Everyone is on the field every inning, too.”
Dream League coaches expect to enroll at least 100 players with about 15 on each of the eight teams this season. Players play three innings for an hour and a half two times per week. Any special needs player from the Chattanooga area can join the league.
Players play coach pitch ball, hitting tee balls with pressurized plastic bats. Six players play ball in wheelchairs while coaches push them around the bases. The league players can join the team of their choice and play on fields 1 and 7 at Rivermont Park.
“Some of the players say their biggest goal is to hit the ball over the fence into the river,” said Dake. “Field 7 is smaller and it is a confidence builder for the players to hit the ball into the river.”
The Dream League is working toward becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, he said, so donations will be tax deductible.
“The children seem to really enjoy it,” said Dake of the league. “I like to see the expressions on their faces when they hit or catch a ball.”
The Dream League originated with founders Myra McCartty and Margie Higdon, who wanted their children at Rivermont Elementary School to be able to play baseball. Three original baseball players still play on the league as adults: Ben Daniels, Jim Dake and Jamie Gann.