October 14, 2016
Louisburg College's baseball players came to the diamond Thursday night not to throw knuckleballs and slam homers but to support their buddies playing America's favorite pastime.
At the plate and in the field were men and women who struggled to run, to swing a bat, to make sense of game statistics -- people with special needs who nevertheless enjoy baseball as much as any pro.
"He's calling his shot!" said Zach Devon, a Hurricanes pitcher at the microphone, announcing as a player waited for his pitch. "Just like the Babe!"
The game was between teams in the Miracle League of the Triangle, a charity that pairs people with special needs with accomplished baseball players. The League reached out to the Hurricanes about volunteering as buddies. Robin Rose, a Louisburg College alumnus and former player, helped found the Cary-based league a decade ago.
Hurricanes Coach Blake Herring pitched it to his players, who were all in. Members of Canes for Change, a group focused on community service, wanted to be part of it. Freshmen and sophomore baseball players held a three-game series, with the winners (sophomores, 2-1) earning the right to be buddies Thursday night.
Before the game, each Hurricane was paired with a player. They tossed the baseball to each other, chatted and quickly became friends. The bleachers around the special field -- a flat surface with a painted diamond to help those in wheelchairs and on crutches navigate the bases -- filled with fans.
As each player stepped on the field, the crowd erupted. Hurricane players stood at home plate as their buddy hit, sometimes helping them swing the bat. They ran the bases with their buddy or jogged behind the wheelchair. They played defense.
There were bunts and stolen bases. Wheelchairs raced down the third base line just in time to hear “SAFE!” from the umpire. Hurricane athletes focused on making sure their buddy had a great experience.
Buddies and players high-fived and gave chest bumps all night. They shared successes and lifted each other up when things didn’t go their way.
The final score was 20-20, a win for both sides. More handshakes, chest bumps and high fives.
Said Assistant Coach Hunter Allen: "it was a blessing to get out there and help with the community. It was great to help folks enjoy a game that we've been blessed enough to play for a long time. We look forward to getting out there and doing it again."
By Brian Hatcher