HARRISONBURG, Va., Nov. 27, 2013 – Building on a relationship that is going on three years old, the James Madison softball team continued its work with Dr. Thomas Moran’s “Play Ball” program at JMU this year.
Madison softball first got involved with Dr. Moran’s program when former catcher Megan Shinaberry (2010-13) started working with it in the spring of 2012. This year sophomore catcher Hannah Hayes (LaCrosse, Va./Kenston Forest) has stepped up to continue the Dukes’ relationship with “Play Ball”.
Last week, JMU hosted its final “Play Ball” event of the semester, inviting the participants to play in a game with their mentors. Almost the entire JMU softball team attended the event.
The first “Play Ball” program was implemented in the spring of 2011 by a student of Dr. Moran’s as part of an independent study. The program is offered under the umbrella of Overcoming Barriers, an organization that offers specialized programs to children with disabilities.
Hayes shared her thoughts on working with the program this year:
“Over the past 10 weeks I volunteered every Thursday night to help with the Play Ball program. Play Ball is a program put on by students at JMU for kids with disabilities in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham county area. These kids have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of baseball with the Play Ball program, while the JMU students use this opportunity to observe and get hands on experiences with the students. Each Play Ball participant is assigned two mentors, and each week we worked on the fundamentals of baseball for 30 minutes, then we would play a mock game for the last 30 minutes of the program.
Although I was not a mentor for any of the kids specifically, I ran the base running station. At first we started out with the basics, learning where each base was and the direction you are supposed to run when running the bases. Each week I saw progression in the kids, as they learned singles, doubles, and triples base running. Then they learned what it meant to get out, and it was so exciting to see their faces light up with joy when they beat out a single or hit a double!
The very last day of Play Ball, we had the “big game”, where the kids got the chance to play against their mentors. They had all improved so much from the first day when they couldn’t even throw a ball. All the kids were very excited to have the softball team show up and support them at the game. After the game, we took the kids out to the softball field where they were overly excited to play in the dirt. We let them each hit the ball as far as they could and run around the bases as if they had hit a home run!
Being able to help with this program was personally very rewarding. Each week for one hour, I didn’t worry about anything that was going on in my life and just enjoyed my time with the kids. No matter how bad my day was, these kids would bring out the best in me, and I would always leave smiling. At the end of Play Ball, we were all personally thanked by the parent of one of the participants. She told us how much Play Ball meant to her kids and that they had really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the game. As a volunteer each week, I was touched by the smiling faces and thoroughly enjoyed my time with the kids!”
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