For generations, most Saturday mornings have meant one thing in a young child’s life: baseball. For on this day, children across the country throw on a baseball uniform, grab their mitt and bat, and travel to their community baseball field to play ball with their friends. During the week they practice, collect baseball cards, dream of one day playing in the majors, and eagerly anticipate their weekend game.
Community based youth baseball programs epitomize Americana and provide a venue for our nation’s youth to grow strong physically, build character and learn social skills from coaches, community leaders and other positive role models, and form friendships that, in many cases, last a lifetime.
Sadly, not every child has the opportunity to experience this rite of passage. Their absence from the lineup has nothing to do with desire, in fact, for many of these children, their love and passion for baseball is undeniable. Their inability to answer the umpire’s cry to “play ball” is varied and found in long and unfamiliar names like 7-Q deletion syndrome, arthrogryposis, or other life-limiting or life-threatening medical conditions. Although their medical conditions may vary they have something in common besides their love of baseball: spirit and resolve.
This awe-inspiring human spirit and resolve is what allows ordinary people, as a group and against long odds, to achieve the extraordinary. Awe-inspiring human spirit is what drove, in 2012, friends Eric Wallace, Jon Ahlquist, Chad Christensen, and Jeff Teran to establish the Sons of Baseball Foundation, a charitable organization that makes baseball dreams come true for children living with disabilities and life threatening medical conditions.
The Sons of Baseball Foundation aims to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences, which are referred to as “MVP experiences” to children living with disabilities and their families. The MVP experiences vary depending on the hosting club, but may include a stadium tour, on-field pre-game visit, meet and greet with players, and a baseball jersey to commemorate the occasion. The children who benefit from the MVP experience come from all over the country and typically are referred to the Sons of Baseball Foundation by organizations that deal with special needs children.
Currently, the Sons of Baseball Foundation has formed relationships to provide MVP experiences with the following baseball clubs: Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Salt Lake Bees, and the University of Utah. The Foundation is working hard to establish relationships with all baseball clubs to ensure that a child can have an MVP experience with his or her favorite team or player.
I hope you will join Dreaming of Cooperstown by supporting and thanking the Sons of Baseball Foundation for their selfless efforts to make baseball available to all children. The dividends of their hard work can be found in the smiles of Jonah Bradshaw, Nathan Glad, and Paxton Norton, all recipients of the MVP experience.