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PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2020 1:34 pm
by harley hawkins
This is a true story about a little league baseball team I coached with 12 and 13 year old's . This was around 1992 way before the movie radio and although it was 28 years ago it still means a lot to me and I think of it a lot.

One year I was coaching a 12 and 13 year old baseball team and every time we had a practice a young lad by the name of James would be standing at the fence watching us. The boys on the team all knew him and would yell hi James and James would jump up and down excited yelling hi back . James had a mental Disorder with slow speech and mobility development .

At one practice I ask James if he would like to practice with us . I thought this might do him some good and the team was really behind the idea and James jumped up and down saying me play ball. That night I called his parents and told them what I had planned and if they were ok with the idea. They said we could give it a try and I told them I would watch him very closely and if anytime I thought it wasn't working we could just drop it. I told them I had an old ball glove James could use (which James was very proud of ) and my goal was to teach him to play pitch and catch, give him something to do and maybe feel good about it.

Before practice I would work with James showing him how to step forward with his left leg and throw the ball. Everyone helped out when I couldn't work with James one of the assistance coach's or other players would playcatch with him always soft tossing to him.

One day I arrived late for practice and the boys had James out on the field warming up with them. I watched as one of the boys were playing pitch and catch and thought not bad he has came a long ways hope he is having fun. When I was handing out our baseball uniforms I didn't give James one and the boys all said were is James uniform. I said James is not going to get a uniform I do not want to get him hurt he is not going to games only practices with us. I seen James was really hurt so I said ok and found James a uniform that fit him and made it very clear he could not go to the games.

The next practice James wore his uniform to practice I explained to James he could only wear it to games. Shit now I have him going to games . I said you have to set on the bench and be quiet and by all means he could not play it was too big a risk having him on the bench. I called his parents said I would pick him up and take him to the games . They were ok with it. James always called me coach didn't make any different where we were at he would yell hi coach .

James now wanted to bat at practice and I said no way too dangerous and I didn't want to get him hurt . James didn't understand . Our season was getting ready to start and I spent all my time getting the team up to speed on plays and signals . The boys before practice would have James hitting off the tee or soft tossing him and he loved it.

We had a pretty good team that summer and won our share of games. James loved going to games would jump up and down yelling every time we scored or made a good play he stayed right there watching the whole game. After a game he would line up with the team and shake hands and always help pick up the equipment . At the end of the season James was ripping the ball the boys would soft toss him at practice and if after three strikes they would say you are out James and he would yell NO, No ball, ball and stay until he hit the ball.The team came to me and said James was hitting the ball pretty good and could I bat him one time I said no that I would love to but just too risky.
Our last game of the season I was good friends with the other coach and I told him about James coming to every practice setting on the bench and never a complaint. I said after the last out if he would tell his team about James his handicap and soft toss to James.
We were the home team so after the last out the other team just stayed on the field and I told James to get a bat he damn near knocked me down and the team were yelling hit it out of the park James. The other teams pitcher tossed it underhanded to James and after about 8 or 10 pitches James hit a grounder to second and this boy a very good fielder dove for the ball missing it and the ball rolled to the out field . James raced to first and rounded just little shy of the bag heading for second but cut between the pitcher mound and second and was tucking for third base and the right field getting the ball and tossing it to the pitcher rather then third and James raced home as the pitcher throw the ball way over the catchers head and James jumped up and down on the plate yelling home run home run as both teams raced out to pat him on the back.
As we walked out on the field to shank hands I hugged each player from the opposing team trying to hold back my feelings. I told coach Brady that he and his player had just made a very special person very happy.

James is over 40 now and works in Kansas city at a workshop for the handicap . If James sees me uptown, in a car or anywhere he will yell the top of his voice HI COACH ME BAT. Some of these boys I coach on a old timers team one every now and than will say Mick remember the year James played ball with us.

Harley Mick Hawkins