COCHRAN -- Baseball season is officially over for one team. Let us observe a moment of silence for our dearly departed Atlanta Braves.
At the same time, I consider it an honor and a privilege to know about some baseball players who will actually be taking the field Saturday.
There may not be a Chipper, but there’s a Chantasia, Charlie and Chasidy.
There’s also a Dakota, Austin and Jomerah.
I’m rooting for all of them. To use a bit of World Series vernacular, I have found my Mr. -- and Miss -- October.
Listen up. If you’re looking for a place to warm your heart Saturday morning, then a few innings of Buddy Ball will do the trick.
You won’t see any home runs hit over the fence, but there will be plenty of tape-measure smiles.
Imagine a game where they don’t keep score, and everyone still goes home a winner.
Buddy Ball arrived in Cochran eight years ago, and nobody here wants it to leave. It means too much to this community.
It has doubled in size to more than 50 participants for its fall tournament and has added an event for the spring. At Saturday’s event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., there will be activity on four different fields at the Cochran-Bleckley County Recreation Department. Plenty of food and fun, too.
Buddy Ball gives children who are either mentally or physically challenged the opportunity to play baseball. It’s similar to the Miracle League we have in Macon, except that it rolls around only twice a year. Buddy Ball draws participants from Bleckley, Dodge, Twiggs and Pulaski counties.
Margaret Spielman is the Middle Georgia regional coordinator for Parent to Parent of Georgia, an organization that provides support, information services, training and leadership opportunities for families who have children with disabilities.
She has been involved with Buddy Ball since its first year in 2003, when organizer Danette Rogers asked her to help with the event and about two dozen youngsters participated.
It was especially meaningful for Margaret since her son, Hunter Heath, was born with Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that is the most common form of inherited intellectual disability in boys and a leading cause of autism.
Hunter, who is now 16, has the cognitive ability of a 3-year-old. He is unable to effectively communicate or participate in extracurricular activities outside his special education classes at school.
“Buddy Ball was exciting because it brought a sense of normalcy to our family,’’ Margaret said. “We are pretty much confined, like prisoners in our own home. We’ve even been asked to leave some churches because we were told there was nothing they could offer Hunter. This was a chance for him to get out and participate in something with other children.’’
Buddy Ball youngsters have disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism to visual impairment and deafness. The “buddy” volunteers are a cross section from church youth groups, Girl Scouts and school sports teams.
Phillip Hart, head coach of the Bleckley Middle School baseball team, was asked to say the opening prayer at one of the Buddy Ball events. When he stuck around and watched what was happening on the field, it brought tears to his eyes.
He enlisted his own baseball players to volunteer, and it has been a tradition ever since. In a heartfelt gesture, he asked Hunter to be the manager of the baseball team.
“I had a talk with the players before Hunter came out to practice,’’ Phillip said. “I told them he was going to come and help with the equipment. I said they should be nice to him, don’t pick on him or make fun of him. It turned into a great relationship. They fell in love with Hunter.’’
In fact, the players and their parents threw a surprise birthday party for Hunter after one of the games, complete with a cake and balloons. “It was the first birthday party he has ever had with his peers,’’ Margaret said.
This past May, Phillip was named the recipient of the 2011 Impact Award by Parent to Parent of Georgia. He was one of 10 finalists and received more than 4,000 on-line votes.
The honor carries a $500 cash award, but Phillip already had it spent before it had a chance to burn a hole in his pocket.
He plans to donate it to Buddy Ball.
I told you everybody is a winner.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.