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‘Bambino’ baseball kids in league of their own

By Alice Parsons, Contributing Writer

A little girl sits in the stands, eyes intent on the baseball game. She cheers wildly as her brother’s bat connects and sends the baseball flying into the outfield.
“I play ball, too?” she asks her mom excitedly.
Mom smiles and says, “We’ll see.”
She thinks about the obstacles in the way of her daughter’s simple request.
The young girl can’t walk on her own yet, though there’s hope that ongoing physical therapy sessions will eventually help achieve that.
For today, however, all she wants is to play ball. Just like her big brother. Just like kids all over the country.
For kids with physical or developmental disabilities, the chance to be part of the great American pastime of baseball isn’t always as easy as signing up and buying a glove.
But for the special kids in Washington County, the dream is closer to reality.
The Smoky Mountain Athletic Association is sponsoring the Bambino Buddy Ball League, giving kids with disabilities a chance to be part of a Little League team, to play and be recognized for their efforts. Players are assisted (if needed) around the bases by a “buddy,” who can be a family member, a friend or a volunteer. The only score that matters is how much fun the players have.
“There’s not a lot of structure (to the games). We just want them to have fun,” explained team coach Sonya Woodyard, who helped found the team while looking for an activity for her 9-year-old daughter. “We want more kids to be able to come and enjoy it.”
The SMAA league’s treasurer Chris Correll, president Jimmy Owens and secretary Zina Owens all championed the idea to the league, winning approval to go forward. Correll, who also serves as the Bowmantown representative, “worked with us to have the field time,” said the coach.
Currently, there’s one Bambino Buddy team in the area, which meets each Saturday 0at 9 a.m. at the Bowmantown Ruritan baseball field. Boys and girls ages 5 to 20 are encouraged to join, the more the merrier, said Woodyard.
“We want more kids to join, so we can have more fun,” she said.
Buddies are also needed, to assist players, field balls or provide cheering.
Bambino Buddy Ball games are scheduled to run through July 14. Players will also take part in the annual Bowmantown Ruritan Baseball picnic, with trophies and recognition.
To sign up as a player or buddy, contact Woodyard at 483-1600, or by email at [email protected] Visit their Facebook page at ‘Bambino Buddy Ball.’