ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- A Stateline mom didn't want her son's disability to stop him from playing baseball, so she started her own league. A few years later, more than 100 local athletes now play Buddy Baseball.
Buddy Baseball is a league for kids between 8 and 21 who have mental and physical disabilities. They're paired with volunteers who help them hit the ball, run the bases, and hopefully, win the game. Five years ago, Sheri White partnered with the Rockford Park District to get this program off the ground.
"I have a son who wanted to play baseball but had difficulty managing in some of the organized leagues and he wasn’t able to play competitively. I felt he needed a game where he could play with a pinch runner and we developed this idea," says Sheri White.
Ironically, her son didn't play that first year, but dozens of other kids did, including Jimmy Prebula. The 12-year-old plays for the Lightning Bolts this season. He's paired with another jimmy, 17 year-old Jimmy Mann, and the two say they have a blast playing ball together. Playing against the Jimmys is Ryan McAdams and his buddy Jessie Bererra. Ryan has cerebral palsy and sometimes has a hard time communicating, but it's not hard to tell how much he enjoys buddy baseball.
"He loves to give hugs and high fives and he loves to hear the crowd cheer for him, but he always comes back and bats and listens eventually," says Jessie Bererra.
Jessie, Ryan, and their team, the Tigers didn't win Wednesday night's match up, but no one really loses when they play buddy baseball.
The teams play a final set of games next Wednesday night at Aviators Stadium. Anyone who wants to cheer them on is invited to attend.