- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2016

JENKS, Okla. (AP) - Children’s faces lit up as they scored countless feats playing a baseball game on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Jenks.

The children, most of whom have an autism diagnosis, wowed the crowd at the 10th annual Buddy Baseball event hosted by the Autism Center of Tulsa. The event pairs special-needs children with Jenks High School baseball players for an afternoon of friendly competition, according to the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/2diLNO2 ).

Nineteen children made up the white-versus-maroon division at the game, played at Jenks High School’s Hinch Field. But that’s just a technicality - everyone at the event was on the same team.

Children ranging from first to 12th grade took turns batting, running and scoring. Each student was paired with two or three Jenks baseball players who stayed at their side the entire game, making sure they were ready for the next play.

Announcer Dusty Goddard enthusiastically introduced each student as they approached their turn to bat, and has done so at most of the games ever since the event’s birth in 2007. He also gave the children a chance to say something on the microphone before each turn.

Each child’s personality shone as they stepped up to the plate.

Jenks High School senior Ellie Burgess, donning a red cape and Wonder Woman headband, walked up to bat to the tune of the Batman theme song. Each student was able to choose their own walk-up music.

“I love you, Spiderman,” Burgess said before batting.

Whether they hit a home run or went for a bunt, each child was able to focus on having fun without the possibility of striking out, getting tagged out, or other burdens that may prevent scoring.

Noah Janssen, a third-grader at Jenks West Elementary, showed off his dance moves as he “dabbed” his way to the plate to the tune of Silento’s “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).”

The term “dabbing” refers to a popular dance move that involves the performer bringing a sharp nod to his or her forearm.

Walk-up music was diverse, ranging from songs performed by Coldplay, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and the song “Let It Go,” featured in the Disney movie “Frozen.”

After the game ended after about 1 ½ hours and four innings, each child was awarded with a trophy and sponsors were honored. The Jenks Baseball Booster Club presented a $1,000 donation to the Autism Center of Tulsa.

Jeff Owens, assistant Jenks baseball coach, said the donation is to show appreciation for “the way that these baseball players, coaches and families have learned about autism,” he said.

The greatest value, he added, is the camaraderie on the team.

“The friendships that have forged between the players and their buddies every single year they come out here … We appreciate you more than you know.”

___

Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com


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