NASHVILLE, Tenn. – At 8 a.m. on a Saturday most college kids are still tucked into their beds, rather it be from recuperating from a week of classes or simply to just sleep in.
But for the Lipscomb baseball team this was not the case this past Saturday at Rose Park.
The Bisons teamed up with The Pujols Family Foundation (PFF) to help launch the Albert’s All-Stars Unified Baseball Program in Nashville to help kids with Down syndrome learn and experience the game of baseball.
“The Pujols Foundation does a lot of great things for special needs kids,” Lipscomb baseball Director of Operations Brian Ryman said. “This all-star league is for the kids. It gives them a setting where they are the superstars. This is their day and it makes all of this worthwhile just to see the smiles on their faces.”
With a group of 15 kids and their parents in attendance, it did not take long for those smiles to come out.
After gathering around the pitcher’s mound for a quick word the kids began pairing off with a few of the Bison players and coaches to throw the ball around. As much as the day was for the kids, it meant just as much to the players as they quickly started forming bonds.
“When you see their faces light up it is an unbelievable feeling,” Lipscomb senior Griffin Moore said. “The kid I was playing with was a big St. Louis Cardinals fan, so I think he felt like he was playing in the NLCS.”
After getting loose everyone broke off into two groups and started playing a couple of semi-competitive games. And even a game of hot potato broke out.
“It has been a great opportunity for us to come out and see how much these kids enjoy playing baseball,” Lipscomb senior pitcher Will Blalock said. “Sometimes we take for granted how much they actually look up to us, but it is great to see the fun they are having out here.”
Even though some of the Lipscomb pitchers were sometimes untouchable in the 2014 season, they were no match for what each kid brought to the plate. One even smacked five home runs on the day.
“It is pure joy for these kids out here,” Blalock said. “You can see it in their eyes every time they come to the plate or catch a ball. That makes it worth it for us to be out here.”
After an hour or so of playing games Carolyn Naifeh, regional director for the PFF, handed out certificates to each kid. You would have thought they won the World Series with some of their reactions at getting that piece of paper, but that is what made Saturday so special.
“The kids feel like they are out here with a bunch of rock stars,” Ryman said. “Now that we have built these relationships and friendships, we have invited them and their parents to come out to some of our games this spring.
“This isn’t just about today, but hopefully for many years to come.”
After a team huddle broken down by Joey, one of the kids, everyone shared one last moment while taking a group picture, a picture to forever remember the day so many lives were touched.
The all-star baseball league was first launched Sept. 6 and will run through the month of November. Alongside Lipscomb are a few other Nashville area teams - Columbia State Community College, Middle Tennessee, Belmont and Trevecca.
The PFF’s goal is to promote awareness, provide hope, and create supportive and memorable events for the families and children who live with Down syndrome.
On November 1 the Bisons will once again give back to the PFF by helping with the Autumn Prom at the Opryland Hotel.
To donate or find out more about the Pujols Family Foundation visit: http://www.pujolsfamilyfoundation.org/