Profile: Field of Angels – Creating an even playing fieldPublished 3:00pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013
To play in the nonprofit league, kids ages 5 to 21 with a mental or physical disability can go up to bat and run the bases for their teams.
The six-game season kicks off in mid-August, even though baseball is traditionally played in the spring.
Chris said two of the teams are more “competitive,” while the other teams are all about having fun. The league doesn’t keep score because, for some of the kids, losing is a trigger for negative reactions, Chris said.
In addition to parents, community members fill the stands to support the players.
“The community has supported it from day one,” Chris said. “Some people are there for nothing more than to cheer them on.”
The community also steps up financially, as Field of Angels is funded through sponsorships and donations.
“A vision we had was for it to be minimum cost,” Chris said. “Thus far, we’ve been successful in that area. It’s been the least of our worries.”
Families pay $25 for the kids to play ball, and the league will accept as many players that apply.
Shelby County offers other special needs baseball leagues, but the Calera league offers something unique.
“What makes us different is that we try to get different people to come,” Chris said.
The 2012 season saw Jim Dunnaway, sports anchor for CBS 42, and Karle announcing players’ names before the games. The University of Alabama baseball team and softball team, who are reigning national champions, hustled around the bases and manned the field with the players during different Saturday mornings. The Thorsby High School cheerleaders and the University of Montevallo baseball team also came out to play in early September.
“Whatever we can do to make it special, we do,” Chris said, noting the players enjoy seeing local celebrities they’ve seen on television.
Chris’ youngest son, 9-year-old Nick, also inherited the baseball gene from his dad. Chris said Noah is his brother’s “biggest fan” during baseball season in the spring, but during Field of Angels in the fall, Noah “knows it’s his baseball season,” Chris said.
THE BUDDY SYSTEM
Many of the players are matched with one of the almost 80 “buddies” who volunteer each week with Field of Angels.
Chris said the league has a one-night “buddy-coach training” for the buddies to learn how to interact with players and assist in the league. League officials conduct background checks on those participating in the league. After the training, the buddies meet the players.
“If there’s anything about a child that has specific needs, we try to match them with a buddy. If they want to play, they can play,” said Alice Fox, who is on the Field of Angels board of directors.