• Rachel Petri

I'm Going to Play Baseball!!


Knobby knees, bushy hair, and a severe visual impairment aren’t the right ingredients for

a baseball star. The first few years of my life were filled with surgeries, medicine, and hours

upon hours in the doctor’s office and hospital. As I got older, the surgeries slowed down, but the

eye drops and appointments still hadn’t.


During this time, my seven year old brother had already been playing baseball for

multiple seasons. From t-ball through Little League, he was on the field every summer and most autumns, and we went to every game. At eight years old, I loved my brother and cared about his games. But seeing the tiny white ball soar through the similarly colored light blue sky, or telling which of the identically dressed little boys was related to me, were all but impossible. I tossed the ball in the backyard with Dad and my brother, but never played on a team or even went to the

batting cages. I knew I couldn’t do it, and the doctor’s would never approve such a contact sport,

anyway.


For me, the idea of playing baseball was probably a lot like the idea of flying to the moon

is for you. Sure, other people had done it, but not me. It wasn’t something I thought about, and if

I did, I knew that it would require way too many leaps, impractical steps, and adjustments. I

don’t use the label a lot, but I was and am a special needs kid, especially in regards to baseball. I

needed a ball big enough to see, but one that wouldn’t detach my retina or displace glaucoma

shunts if it were to hit me. I needed a field brightly contrasted enough to navigate, but smooth

and small enough to be accessible. I needed the ball to be pitched slowly enough so that I could

see it coming, but consistent enough in speed so that I would know when to swing. And so on.


I never could have done all of that on my own; I wouldn’t have even registered half of

those things as problems until I’d begun to play. But someone else had already thought through

each intricate aspect of baseball in regards to my specific needs. And that summer - I think I was

eight - everything changed.


I vividly remember sitting at our kitchen table (the same one we have now) and eating a

bowl of cereal that afternoon. I overheard just a few words, and even now I don’t recall exactly

what phrasing tipped me off. But I do have a very stark recollection of dropping my spoon in my

bowl, shoving my chair back, and racing into the next room to interrupt my parents with,


“I’m going to play baseball??”


A sports facility in our area had a division devoted to therapeutic recreation, and this

organization had a partnership with a national baseball league for kids with disabilities. The

league still had spots open for the summer, and I was allowed to try it out. In short: I was,

indeed, going to play baseball.


The field for Miracle League was completely accessible. The athletes ranged in age from

five to adulthood, and were even more varied in disability. I started that summer at the recreation

level, and played with no outs, colored whiffle balls, and the most excitement I’d ever felt about

anything.


My first game felt, well, probably like how flying to the moon would feel for you. I’d

always thought it would be amazing, but never directly addressed the unlikely wish. Now it was

coming true. I ran to first base for the first time in my entire life, and was so excited to keep

going that I bounced in place on the bag until it was time to run again. Some of my teammates

used wheelchairs; some had dwarfism; others acted years younger than they appeared to be. And

all of us - from the unresponsive teenager in his chair to the adult who didn’t grasp making

typical conversation - all of us played baseball.


Now, I’m twenty one years old and just finished another summer of baseball. I’ve moved

to the competitive league, where we have outs, runs, winners, and losers. I pitch for my team,

and I’ve learned to run as fast as I can as soon as I hit the ball


Some days, I win. I go home knowing that my hit in the second inning, or the batter I

struck out a moment ago, contributed to the victory. And I high five my teammates, and walk

away grinning.


Other days, I lose. I go home knowing that I played baseball not as the blind kid, but as

the pitcher or outfielder, and part of the team. And I high five my teammates, and walk away

grinning.

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