A young man with cerebral palsy, which renders his legs useless, discovered this summer that he can play baseball and wants to play the sport for a long time.
Justin Ponce, 18, has spastic quadriparesis and mild intellectual disability. His birth disease affects his speech, his vision and forces him to move around in a wheelchair.
He recently fell in love with baseball while attending the first adapted baseball season at Charlemagne-Le Gardeur.
“In the beginning I wasn’t able to hit the ball,” Justine told us when we met with her mother at Parc Lavardière in the Le Gardeur sector of Repentigny, where the games are held from June to August.
When the season started, Justin had to hit the ball with a T-ball. [un poteau sur trépied sur lequel est déposée la balle à la hauteur de frappe]But after weeks of practice he was able to hit it when someone threw it at him.
“Baseball is important to me, I want to be in baseball for the rest of my life,” said Justin, very emotional and happy to talk about his experience.
“And I made new friends with baseball,” he said.
His mother, Nancy Lépine, was very involved in making sure the experience went as smoothly as possible.
Ms. Lepine, who heard about this baseball program from Justin’s social worker, said, “It was very fickle, there are some who don’t understand the game and others who are better, depending on their development.” Of course you have to guide them, it’s really based on having fun, hitting balls, trying to catch them and they get it as the heat goes up.
This adaptive baseball program is sponsored by the Jays Care Foundation, the charitable arm of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The foundation provides local leaders, in this case Baseball Charlemagne-Le Gardeur, equipment for customized baseball including sound balls, sound goals and gives them $500 to start the program, plus $500 for each registered player. Returns $35.
“They also offer hats and sweaters,” told us Francine Cinque-Mars, president of Baseball Charlemagne-Le Gardeur, an organization that until this year only dealt with regular baseball.
“For us this customized baseball activity was a leap into the total unknown,” she said. To see his smile during practices and games, to see whole families coming to watch the game and to encourage the youth, it all made our summer.
The return of the program for next summer has already been confirmed. Meanwhile, a closing match of the 2022 season has been set for this Saturday at Laverdière Park.