‘Buddy Baseball’

By: Daniel Gotera Email
By: Daniel Gotera Email

Imagine a baseball league designed specifically for children with disabilities. They have been formed across the country, and now one of them calls our area home. It’s giving special needs children the opportunity to play the game they love and parents the chance to see their own become stars.

It’s not everyday that you get to meet a group of people that you can remember for your entire life.

What appears to be a normal baseball diamond in Paris, Texas, could and should be considered a field of dreams.

They hit, make their way around the bases to the best of their ability, and when it's needed these stars play defense—all for the love of America’s pastime, and all of it made possible through a program called buddy baseball.

Buddy baseball was started by the red river valley down syndrome society and is designed specifically for physically and mentally disabled children, ages 5-18.

But what makes this league special is that each player is assigned a companion, or buddy, not to play the game for them- but to help them along.

In its second season, the league is slowly making a name for itself.

"More than anything, it was just getting the word out, we still have parent and kids that come up and say hey I didn't know you guys were doing this."

Deanna Tharpe is the executive director of the Red River Down Syndrome Society and says the organization was looking for something to give those with disabilities a chance to enjoy the popular game just like everyone else.

"It’s a relief, its exciting, and its heart warming not just to see for my kids, especially the ones that aren't mobile who have the use of a chair, for them to get out there because they would not have any opportunity otherwise."

But for Tharpe, her attachment to the program is personal.

Her son, little Joel is part of the program. Before the program started, he played in Little League, something which Tharpe says wasn't so easy.

"It was frustrating to me because he has his days and it’s kind of hard when other parents are very competitive even at a young age. It’s very competitive, and you don't want to feel like your keeping your team down and you don't want your child to feel that way either."

But here, that’s not the case. There is no score. Everyone hits in every inning, and everyone scores a run in every inning, putting each player in the spot light.

Experts say a program like buddy baseball provides a social outlet for those with disabilities.

Doctor Clyde Shaw is a pediatrician at Wilson N. Jones Hospital.

As is the case with 16-year-old Susie Stewart, whose mother Jonnie always tries to provide the same thing other children have to her daughter, like signing her up in the league.

"The hurts, the feeling, the emotion, we have with children that have special needs, each mother, it’s helpful to us all as we group together and grow."

And in true team form, Susie puts her teammates first.

“Why do you like your teammates so much?”

“Cause they are good friends. They’re good, and I love them."

For now, the stars and buddies will come to this field in Paris, Texas, and while it might not be Iowa, for a couple of Saturdays in the spring, this is where dreams come true from everyone.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Clayton Chesser Location: dallas on Jun 8, 2008 at 09:43 PM
    can I volunteer?
  • by Heather Location: Garland, Tx on Jan 3, 2008 at 09:27 PM
    Inclusion is always important. We have The Buddy League, Inc. We have been providing baseball and soccer for since Fall 2002. I started the Buddy League, Inc. for my son, Ben. He also played Little League. In the beginning the work of incorporating and attaining 501 c3 status seemed too daunting. I knew that it was worth the work when I saw my son and his new friends play a game that most of us take for granted. We currently have over 100 players in our Garland League and also offer baseball in Forney. We Are the Buddy League, and ALL ARE WELCOME!
  • by Allac Location: Japan on Jun 12, 2007 at 06:36 AM
    That's my little brother in the green shirt with the walker!! Isn't he ADORABLE!!!
  • by NaNa Location: Terrell on May 27, 2007 at 12:19 PM
    Thank you so much for doing a story about this baseball team. My grandson was the only child in a wheel chair. He can not hold the bat or say anything, but his buddy helped him touch the bat and then ran with him to a base. This takes a lot of love to do things with a child who will only smile and have a twinkle in his eyes. Thank you for the story.
  • by truiz Location: Sherman on May 17, 2007 at 04:12 PM
    What a wonderful segment! I do not know how anyone could not be touched by this story! These kids teach us all about the things that matter in life-more importantly,"how to have fun"! Great job on the story,Dan!We could see that your heart was in it! Thank you! Keep up the good work!
  • by Karen Location: Paris on May 12, 2007 at 10:26 PM
    Thanks so much for the wonderful story.Kaleb was thrilled to be a part of it and he felt like a star! God gave us this special little angel who is such a delight. He gives us much needed love and laughter and life lessons everyday. We are truly Blessed with "Two" beautiful sons. Thanks also to the coaches, "Buddies" and anyone involved in helping these kids feel good about themselves. Thank you and God Bless, Karen
  • by Charlie Location: Humble, TX on May 11, 2007 at 08:52 PM
    kaleb is our nephew. I saw the segment on Ch. 12 while in Grayson County this week. Please let me know (e-mail add bleow) if a copy of the clip would be available for his mother, who was unable to view the program. - Thanks
  • by Mary Location: Telephone, Fannin Co. on May 11, 2007 at 03:15 PM
    My grandson has cerebral palsy and is on one of the Buddy Baseball teams. Despite his using a walker and being unfamiliar with baseball, he has a good time. We are indebted to the adults who give their time to make this opportunity available to these beautiful, special children and to the teacher at Sam Rayburn Elementary who called the program to our attention. It is wonderful to see the children participate in a sport that many take for granted and to hear all present applaud and cheer each child.
  • by Judy Location: Sherman on May 11, 2007 at 01:34 PM
    I work for a group home that takes care of mentally challanged adults and I think what has been done with these little kids is awesome. It is so hard to find things and places that my clients can go, do, and be comfortable. God Bless each and eveyone of younthat got this started. I would love to come and see the kids play.
  • by Jill Location: Clarksville on May 11, 2007 at 07:54 AM
    I watched your story on Buddy Baseball. My niece is on the team. Wonderful story and loveable children. We could all learn alot from them.
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