Well it happened. We arrived, all ready and willing to play. This was supposed to be easy, or so they thought. Wheelchairs were laid out in a single line, and our opponents from Wheels on Fire were already warming up in their gym. A crowd of about 250 gathered as a round of applause greeted a staged entry by Bay Blizzard. Smiling broadly, each and every one of them, all willing to participate in a match that could never be won. Bay Blizzard, pros and experienced softball veterans, Wheels On Fire, all softball virgins, all hyped up for an occasion that would prove epic. This match, arranged in the hope of raising awareness to a great cause, had a new set of rules, rules that had been designed for wheelchair participation, but no matter what the rules, Bay Blizzard were determined to walk into this gym with an attitude that sang, ‘we take no prisoners’. It proved to be otherwise as the story will tell.
After being given their own wheelchairs, (yes, this game was to be played on wheels) Tayne, Tot, Marie, Em, Bri, Katrine, Kayla, Lindsey, Megan, Maddie, Charlotte and Coaches, Debbie, Kristin and Dan, took to the floor like they’d never done anything else but play on three wheels. Their sport chairs glistening with sweat after just a few moments of pushing themselves up and down the gym while they warmed up for the battle which was about to commence. With each side ready and willing to begin, the opening ceremony, followed by the presentation of a new sport chair to Diana, (one of the WOF players), made way for the first of what would eventually be, 2, four inning softball matches.
From the get go WOF dominated, seeing BB reduced to three quick outs and an early exit onto the field. WOF proceeded to score 12 runs in their first at bat, led by Lee, Pedro and Alicia, with Diana, Liam and Sam following on shortly after. BB were indeed shell-shocked, not only by the speed of their opposing wheelchair athletes, but also by their coordination and of course ability to maneuver the bases at speed. Within minutes of WOF scoring their first run, BB knew they were in for a complete trouncing and indeed the first game ended 19 to 4 in favor of the WOF team. It was certainly time for reflection for BB and a chance to refresh their bodies, which by now were becoming accustomed to being wheelchair bound, only being able to catch the ball with one hand and having to adjust quickly any ideas they had of getting out of their chairs to catch fly balls. This was fun, though not just for the victors, but for all participants, who now had a new-found respect for the difficulties those WOF athletes encounter on a daily basis. I had warned them all many weeks ago that this would’t be easy and I had asked them to consider how it would feel if they or any of their friends were confined to a chair for the rest of their lives. Now they knew, and now they realized this was no picnic.
With refreshments over, the second game began, and BB raced into a 4 to 0 lead. I decided to try myself as second batter in the second inning, (by now BB were losing once again), and after hitting the ball on the 5th attempt I was eventually run out at 3rd base. At the top of the fourth inning BB were winning 18 to 16, a remarkable effort and one that had been enhanced by their ability to adjust to the confinement of the chairs they’s been in for the past three hours. In the end, the game was tied by the very last hit from WOF, making it a day to remember for all who participated. We had begun at 2PM and ended at 4 30PM and I believe that everyone who took part came away with the feeling that this had been a very special day.
From the phone calls, emails and texts I have received since Saturday, and from the smiles that were spread across everyone’s faces, athletes and parents alike, I know that this match up of two great teams raised a massive new awareness for the WOF program and just how hard it is for all these athletes to lead any kind of normal life. BB committed to work hard and to fund raise to buy a new chair for one of the future WOF athletes to use. Don Rocha, a local council member from this particular district of San Jose, attended the game and asked to be involved in any new fundraising initiatives. The parents of some of the kids who’d already received chairs through generous donations from certain benefactors, all came to give thanks in unison. All in all, WOF achieved their goal of reaching out to the local community to show just what an incredible program this is and hopefully with more donations and increased participation from some of those who came to watch, the program itself will flourish well into future years. http://www.fwwaa.org/how-you-can-help/donation-opportunities/
I have attached some links to YouTube to enable you to watch some of the games and also enclosed some pictures. If you are able to contribute towards this cause, a link is provided below. WOF participate in various sporting events all held at the Camden Community Center each Saturday, from 1 to 4 PM. Anyone is welcome to attend.
My thanks go out to Jessica, Adam and Lee for making this happen and to the Bay Blizzard softball team and it’s coaches for being willing to take part for such a great cause.