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Batter Up for Buddy Ball

“Batter up” is a familiar phrase heard on baseball diamonds across the nation. Now, thanks to some creative, out-of-the-box (batter’s box, that is) thinking, Ohioans with both physical and mental disabilities can participate in America’s Pastime. It’s called Buddy Ball.
Buddy Ball is baseball for individuals with disabilities. The game is played similarly to traditional baseball, although individual fields have separate rules and requirements. For example, at Grove City’s Mirolo Field (pictured), the games last about an hour. Each team bats completely through their lineup and each player gets on base. The last player in the lineup scores a grand slam. Mirolo Field has a tiled, rubberized surface that accommodates wheelchairs and other assistive devices. It also includes specialized equipment like the “Batter Up Machine,” which enables players who can’t grip a traditional baseball bat to pull a string to swing the bat at the ball.  
Each player has a person (a “buddy”) who helps them bat and make it to home plate. (Some friendly “fan interference” you might say.) All the games end in a tie, yet no one balks. Game day means everyone gets to be Jackie Robinson, Dottie Schroeder, or Ty Cobb.
Buddy Ball is open to people of all ages: current players range from 3 to 70 years old. Several Buddy Ball fields are located in central Ohio: the Miracle League of central Ohio, the Grove City Buddy Ball League and the Hilliard Baseball Association Buddy Division.
Supporting Buddy Ball is easy. Register an interested athlete, or volunteer. At most fields, volunteers participate in specialized training, joining the game as a buddy and as a person with a physical challenge. For example, volunteers may practice using crutches or wearing goggles with a limited field of vision to understand how to better help a person with a disability. Volunteers and donations make the program possible.
Secondly, instead of buying peanuts and cracker jacks at the next Major League game you attend, buy a new specialty state license plate that says “Baseball for All.” A portion of each license plate sale goes to maintain the fields and purchase special equipment.
Finally, you can root, root, root for the home team by attending a game. Whatever you do, don’t strike out by thinking that persons with disabilities can’t enjoy a whole new ball game. Get out there, and play ball!