Prior to the 2012 baseball and softball season, the Evanston Baseball Softball Association (EBSA) consisted of numerous leagues devoted to letting young ball players of all ages play and enjoy the sport. But when the 2012 season began, the EBSA introduced the Buddy BasebALL League, which allows ball players with special needs to play the game.
Buddy BaseBALL gives players with mental and/or physical disabilities the chance to play and enjoy the sport, regardless of ability. The league invites individuals with disabilities aged 5 through 20 years of age to play, with a goal of helping individuals learn teamwork, promote self-esteem and have fun. Each player is paired with an EBSA 14U travel league player.
The league was founded by Mike Hamann, vice president of the Baseball House League at EBSA, who said, "[I] and the EBSA Board recognized that surrounding communities have similar leagues," he said. "We believe baseball should be available to the whole community."
Mr. Hamann acknowledges the league would not have been established without help from other board members and a very generous local family. "It was my idea, but had help from a number of people," he said. "The Sorensen family was very generous volunteering their time. [Former EBSA President] Casey Miller and the board gave us access to extra gear and getting a place for us to play. [Vice President of Operations] Tim Hanigan got all the kids uniforms."
The EBSA does not charge any fees to participate, and team T-shirts are provided to all players. The league plays every Sunday afternoon during the month of August at James Park. Now in its second season, the league currently has approximately 15 players with such disabilities as autism, attention deficit disorder and some physical handicaps.
Ideally, the league will acquire enough participants to field two whole teams, but currently the action consists of drills and scrimmages, says Mr. Hamann. "We really hope we can get more kids out," he said. "The kids are so happy to be out there, and the parents are thrilled and would love to see more dates on the calendar."
Individuals who know players with special needs who are interested in playing in the Buddy BaseBALL League are encouraged to visit the EBSA website at www.evanstonbaseball.com or email Mr. Hamann at firstname.lastname@example.org.