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Players step up for unique baseball event

Posted: Monday, July 11, 2005

On Saturday, the sun was shining high overhead in a cloudless sky of blue. Underfoot, the grass was green and smelled freshly cut. And the sound of grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and salmon could be heard sizzling in the distance — it was a perfect day for a ball game.

Players from the Giants and the Yankees — although not the Major league teams which bare the same names — stepped up to the plate. The players were true athletes nonetheless, just by the fact they were there to challenge themselves as much as each other.

It was all part of Frontier Community Services' 2005 Annual World Series Baseball Event, held at the Kenai Little League ball fiends on South Spruce Street.

"Frontier Community Services is all about supporting people with disabilities, from birth to death, in their own homes and own communities," said FCS executive director Kenneth Duff.

That includes supporting those with mental or physical disabilities in recreation and sports — two areas where they have in the past faced discrimination.

The FCS event showed the participants were highly capable of playing the game, and several hit singles, doubles, triples and home runs.

"We have almost 50 ball players — some as young as seven, some as old as 40 — and all of them get at least one turn at bat and playing the field," said Kat deMello, an FCS employee and one of the organizer of Saturday's event.

Most of the participants were local to the immediate area, but some came from as far away as Hope, Seward and Anchorage.

"This event gives our consumers a chance to participate in a sporting event that offers personal accomplishment," deMello said, adding that each player got a baseball cap, shirt, glove, medal and trophy.

In addition, the world series also gave the participants a chance to be part of something bigger.

"It gives them a chance to be part of a team, where they cooperate, work together and take turns — all things important in everyday life," deMello said.

Care givers, family and friends of the athletes rooted for them and their teammates from the sidelines.

"I think it's pretty special being able to come out and watch these folks play," said Cheryl Barber.

Barber's son, Jared, contends with an epileptic condition, but that didn't stop him from catching balls in right field.

Jared's dad, Don Barber, said he felt much the same about watching his boy play.

"We enjoy it as much as he does. It's hard not to feel good about being here," he said.

Sarah Hudkins, whose son, Trenton, is hearing impaired, was also thankful her son got to participate in the game.

"I thought it was great," she said. "We live in Seattle half the year and come up every summer to commercial fish. They still invited us even though we don't live here. It was awesome."

Following the games, the athletes were treated to a barbecue and potluck picnic featuring a wide assortment of dishes, side dishes and drinks.

The event was sponsored by FCS, the Kenai Little League Association, as well as numerous local business and individual sponsors.



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