Elijah Roberts is in his second year playing adaptive baseball and is thrilled to be playing in McCormick Field, “This is big-time stuff,” is how he sums it up. A few minutes later, his turn at bat comes and he hits a hard blooper just past where the shortstop would be. The smile on his face says it all as he takes his base. He is still smiling crossing home plate. “It makes me feel good to hit the ball,” he said later.
Elijah and 57 other special-needs kids took turns hitting and fielding on a cool Saturday morning at the stadium. Divided into four teams, today was the culmination of this years season. They have been playing every Saturday since April 21st, except for one week when they went to see the Atlanta Braves on a field trip.
Ten years ago, Mike Brickhouse and his son Russell Brickhouse met Randy Shaw through a mutual acquaintance, the program was born. Shaw, working for Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, with the Asheville Tourists Baseball Club and lots of volunteers and parents do the work so the kids can have some fun. Sponsors of the teams help a lot too, and this year included Bojangles Restaurants, Mountain Adaptive, and Orthopedic Appliance Company .
“It has been a wonderful experience watching these kids year after year,” said the elder Brickhouse, “you can’t imagine how much some of them look forward to this.” Russel Brickhouse agrees, “I love this. It has been part of my life for 10 years now. It is a great program.”
New last year, is a winter league of Adaptive Basketall, which takes place in the gym at T.C. Roberson High School. Fifteen kids participated this year, Shaw expects the number to grow this year. “There is a lot of need for these kind of programs, I am glad we can do it,” said Shaw.
As for Roberts, asked if he will be back next year, “Yes!,” he said, through his huge smile.