The Tampa league for kids with special needs just started up again for the first time since it stopped last year due to COVID-19.
It’s a welcome return for players like 12-year old Ethan Russell.
“My favorite thing is everyone is really nice here,” Ethan said.
Ethan Russell, 12, takes the field with the Buddy Baseball league (Tim Wronka/Spectrum News)
The players went up to bat and took the field with their volunteer buddies in a game that’s more for fun and inclusion than competition.
“There’s not as much pressure,” Ethan said. “In real baseball, there’s so many people in the stands. You get as many strikes as you need.”
On Saturday, the Tampa-based Buddy Baseball league played its 1,000th game, dating back to 2009. The teams play at the Temple Terrace Family Rec Complex.
The games are back at a good time because last year’s seasons were canceled.
Parent Lisa Mezzei says that was tough on players like her son, Matthew.
That time away showed just how much an activity like this means to the more than 100 kids who play each week.
“It makes him feel included and the same. No one looks at him differently,” Mezze said.
The league is following strict COVID-19 guidelines, like mask wearing and temperature checks to get the players on the field safely.
“They did miss it,” Executive Director Russ Oberbroeckling said. “It’s a chance for them to have some sort of physical activity. And to meet their friends. A lot of children with special needs may not have a lot of friends, but here they do.”
You can find more information about Buddy Baseball on the league’s website.