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Home runs for all

League offers unique experience for special needs players

Thursday nights at Sparkman School’s softball field are something Garrett Tucker looks forward to each year.

The players who fill the dugouts and playing field range in age from 6 to 26 and all have special needs. Some play with the aid of wheelchairs and walkers and others move with a noticeable limp. But what they lack in talent or physical prowess, they make up the difference with team spirit and determination.

“The kids really enjoy participating in the game,” said Tucker, a volunteer pitcher who has held the same job since the league started. “There is a strong competitive spirit and everyone, including the very vocal fans, leaves with a smile on their face. That, not a score, is what really matters.”

The program is now in its third season and operates under the name of Home Runs & Family Fun. There are 64 players, divided equally into three teams – red, green and blue. Two teams play while the third team sits in the dugout in a rest mode. Every player gets to bat at least once and takes a turn on the field. The game lasts about an hour and a half.

The game has rules that permit every player to hit, reach based and score a run. However, scores are not kept and the emphasis is on offense rather than defense. In some cases, a player is allowed to hit off a tee, or with the assistance of a volunteer. The infield has a volunteer at each base to encourage runner and assist them, if needed, to get from one base to the other.

Rhonda Corder, one of the program’s coordinators, said volunteers, supportive parents and community sponsors are the backbone of the program.

“When we need something, there’s someone willing to step up and help out,” she pointed out. We have been able to put new seating on our bleachers and made improvements to our concessions stand.”

She expressed thanks to the following sponsors: Clairday’s Discount Trophies, Hartselle Kiwanis Club, Eddie Preuitt Ford, Mt. View Baptist Church, United Country Four Oaks, Hartselle Pilot Club, Valley Industrial, Hartselle Boys’ Basketball, Lowe’s-Hartselle, Hartselle Rotary Club, Larry’s Signs, Hartselle Sporting Goods and Corum’s Building Supply.