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August 14, 2008
SPORTS - BASEBALL
Ballplayers challenge Fenway
|Red Sox batting coach Dave Magadan works with 6- year-old Challenger player Hunter Twite.|
|Constance Brown photo|
BEDFORD, New Hampshire (STPNS) -- As Jim McDermott watched his son take a swing at Fenway Park last week, he realized he would never forget that moment.
Six-year-old Cian, and then his twin Cole, focused hard as Red Sox batting coach Dave Magadan helped them with their stances and then tossed a few pitches.
?It was thrilling for them, to be standing in the same spot as their heroes,? said McDermott.
When his two older sons, Connor, 12, and Colin, 10, hit a few into the outfield, ?the look on their faces was precious,? said McDermott. ?They were just amazed they were doing the same thing as the pros.?
Cian and Cole are members of Bedford Little League?s Challenger Division team, which is designed for children with disabilities. This year, their team was chosen by the CVS Caremark program to go to Fenway for a tour of the park and a couple of hours at bat with Magadan.
For the McDermotts, die-hard Red Sox fans who routinely deprive themselves of sleep rather than
miss a game, it was an incredible experience.
A group of players, ?buddies? ? kids who shadow and help the players ? and family members met at Fenway Tuesday, July 29, where they toured the park, practiced batting and ate lunch in the dugout.
Many stayed to watch that evening?s game from the CVS/pharmacy Family Section. (The Angels won, 6-
For coach Laura Pace, who organized the team so her son could play ball, it was an exciting and unexpected way to end the season.
Pace and her husband Brian moved to Bedford last year, with their son Jacob, 6, and daughter Sasha,
3. In their former hometown in New Jersey, Pace had had a discouraging experience trying to get Jacob
involved in soccer. Knowing it might be challenging for him because of his learning disability and developmental delays, Pace offered to act as an assistant coach. But when Jacob had trouble focusing, the other coaches found him disruptive and suggested he should leave.
?That was a bad day,? said Pace.
After moving to Bedford, Pace heard about Little League?s Challenger Division. Bedford hadn?t had a
challenger team in about 15 years, so Pace organized one herself.
In Challenger, the rules are flexible and the game is designed so the kids can be successful.
?And the kids always cheer for kids on the opposing team.
That?s how we operate,? said Pace.
According to Pace and McDermott, the season has been an incredible experience.
?I can?t even tell you the look on the kids? faces and how much fun everyone was having,? said McDermott. ?The time flew by, I can?t tell you how special it was to see these children out there.?
Relaxing the rules made all the difference for Challenger Division kids, said McDermott, whose six-year-old twins are autistic.
McDermott remembers taking his sons to Disney World and struggling to help them cope with waiting in long lines.
Joining a team that?s designed to accommodate behavioral and physical needs created a great opportunity for his sons to learn to play baseball while spending time with other kids, said McDermott.
That opportunity was made possible by Bedford Little League. Pace and McDermott praised the board for giving the team equipment, uniforms and the use of the best fields. Board members even paid out of their own pockets to help sponsor the team, said Pace.
And they had high praise for CVS and the Red Sox too.
?CVS was so amazing, they were so generous with the gifts for the kids, passing out cold bottles of water for the kids.
They made sure everyone was comfortable and well taken care of,? said Pace.
The visit started with a tour.
Fenway Park tour guide Ed Carpenter led them to the Green Monster, up into the seats and into the dugout, keeping them moving and interacting with the kids as they went.
After that, the group lined up by the dugout. Batting coach Dave Magadan led them one by one over to home plate, gave them a few pointers on holding the bat, and tossed each child a few pitches.
McDermott?s older sons? faces went from elated to serious at the plate.
?They?re very serious about baseball,? said McDermott.
?On the way down, we talked about, can you hit it over the Green Monster?? ?
For McDermott?s father, Edward, a lifelong Red Sox fan who hadn?t been to Fenway since he was a boy, watching his grandsons hit the ball at Fenway Park was the experience of a lifetime.
?I asked them afterward how it was, and they couldn?t even speak,? recalled Pace.
Pace was brimming with pride.
?As their coach, I was so proud of the kids. It was probably the best day everybody had. Every one of them was so focused, so good. I think it was the total awe of the situation,? said Pace.
The Red Sox have partnered with CVS Caremark to put on the All Kids Can Baseball Camp for four years. They?ll offer the camp for another two years, to New England Little League Challenger teams, Miracle League teams and other baseball teams inclusive of children with disabilities.
?We invite coaches of these teams to fill out an application prior to each year?s baseball season,? said CVS Caremark spokesperson Eileen Howard Dunn. ?Our aim is to ?spread the experience? of these camps to as many New England teams as possible, so we encourage teams that haven?t participated to date, to apply.?
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