Story by Sydney Cox | CASB Writers’ Club
Photos by Sandie Free | CASB Photographer
Neil Milikenn once said, “Focus not on the differences of people with disabilities but the talent of the individual.” Opening day at the Prattville YMCA Field of Dreams was the perfect day to celebrate the many talents of such a diverse group of individuals. The Prattville YMCA Field of Dreams kicked off the 2022 baseball season filling the Autauga County skies with cheers of celebration.
This league serves children and adults who are physically or mentally challenged and fosters a sense of community for the players and families who participate. It also offers many opportunities for local individuals, groups, or businesses to support the mission that the league so strongly believes in. A baseball game at the Field of Dreams isn’t your ordinary baseball game – everyone bats, there are no outs, you may see two balls in the outfield at once, but you won’t see the lights of the scoreboard turned on. Every hit can be a home run if you have it in you to round the bases because the Field of Dreams is about much more than winning a game.
June Dorough, Ability Program Senior Coordinator for the Prattville YMCA, was called to this position after working with special education students in the Autauga County School System for 12 years. She stated she was “asked to volunteer coach and fell in love with it and it went from there.” Over the past five years, June has seen the program provide opportunities for players and families that they otherwise would not have. While June prefers to stay behind the scenes, she has done an outstanding job creating an inclusive and accepting environment where abilities outweigh disabilities. She was the lead organizer for Saturday’s Opening Ceremonies and the event could not have been more perfect. From the food vendors and face painting to the cornhole and kid zone, there was something for everyone to enjoy. There were even door prizes and giveaways for the fans. Saturday would not have been possible without her dedication and Opening Day’s success reflected that.
During the opening ceremonies, 10 different teams were introduced: Flying Squirrels, Fireflies, River Bandits, Hot Rods, Silver Hawks, Mud Dogs, Yard Goats, Rail Riders, Iron Pigs, and the Trash Pandas with players being introduced ranging in age from 5-65. Each team is made up of children and adults with diversified needs that would lead them to be excluded from traditional baseball or softball leagues. The teams are led with inclusion and acceptance and offer the players a place to play, learn, grow, and foster lifelong friendships. It doesn’t matter who hits a home run – games at the Field of Dreams are about so much more than that. The players were all cheering on teams other than their own and if their friend celebrated a victory on the field, they were met with cheer and excitement from the stands.
The cheers from the stands weren’t only from the other players, but from the families who attended Saturday as well. Rosalind Crosby, mother of Grant who plays for the Iron Pigs, could not say enough about the good this program has done for her son, her family, and her community. Rosalind stated, “The Field of Dreams has been a God-send for our family. Once I learned about the program, we got more and more involved and we joined the league and it has been wonderful ever since.” For her son Grant, she says this organization has given him a world of opportunities because he and all the other players get a chance to just be themselves on the field. Eyes filled with tears, Rosalind said, “For me it has made my heart humble and it has made my heart even more grateful that people have compassion, love, and kindness in their heart for the players because those characteristics are only God-sent. With the field of dreams, everybody’s a champion. It doesn’t matter what your ability is, everybody’s a champion.”
The day would not have been possible, of course, without the support of the community. Prattville High School Football and Marbury Middle School Baseball dedicated their time Saturday morning to showing up and showing out for the players. Each group of young men were beyond impressive with their involvement and engagement with the players Saturday. They were helping them warm up, teaching them batting stances, running the bases with players, and cheering them on during every game.
Prattville High School’s head football coach, J.B. Wallace stated, “We try to interact with the community and we want to get our guys involved and let them understand that these are the same people that cheer them on on Fridays and we got to pour back into the people that pour into us.”
He shares a similar perspective to Marbury Middle School’s head baseball coach, Wade Hurst. When talking about his team, Hurst explained: “Our core values – we have three – are integrity, service, and excellence. We try to emphasize throughout the short time we have with the guys each one of those values. We had heard about the Field of Dreams and it was just an awesome way to try to let the guys experience that idea of service before self.”
Dorough said over the last five years, she has seen this organization provide opportunities for families that they otherwise would not have. The Field of Dreams not only offers opportunities in baseball, but in kickball, flag football, cheerleading, basketball, tennis, soccer, and volleyball as well. They even host fellowship events for players during holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. If you are interested in playing, volunteering, or donating time or resources, there are several ways you can get involved.
The best way is to contact Dorough via call or text at 334-558-1367 or email at email@example.com. You can also go to the Prattville YMCA Field of Dreams page on Facebook to stay up to date on game schedules and volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in playing, you can show up at a game to get signed up and join a team.
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