Prior to their game against the Rochester Red Wings on Saturday, Aug. 9, Indianapolis Indians players and coaches hosted a Special Needs Clinic at Victory Field, where they offered instruction of baseball fundamentals to nearly 200 special needs youth from Indianapolis-based Damar Services.
The players and coaches worked side-by-side with the kids to teach them about hitting, throwing, fielding ground balls and catching pop flies. Participants got to take part in batting practice just like the actual Indians players do, and worked on their defensive skills on the best playing surface in Minor League Baseball.
While the team taught basic baseball skills to all the clinic participants, they also made some special connections, and gained insight into the often challenging lives these youngsters lead.
“My sister takes part in the Special Olympics every year, so this clinic kind of hits close to home,” said Indians Hitting Coach Mike Pagliarulo. “The kids get all excited, they look forward to it, they remember it, they talk about it all the time. I’m familiar with how they’re going to react and that really makes me feel good. I know my sister’s always excited about going to events like that. Just being on the field with the other kids is great. It’s so exciting for them. It’s a great feeling when you’re in the position that we’re in to help them and actually make them feel good, so that makes me feel good.”
By the end of the clinic, the teachers became the pupils as Indians players and coaches learned some valuable life lessons from what this next generation of Tribe fan goes through on a daily basis.
Earlier this season the Indians raised $6,620 to benefit Damar Services’ Parent Training and Parent Night Our Programs as part of Autism Awareness Night. The Indians organization has also worked closely with local districts of the Challenger League through its Triple Play Youth Program.
“The commitment from the Indians to provide this instructional camp is a wonderful opportunity for those that we serve,” said Dr. Jim Dalton, President and CEO of Damar Services. “These kids are often overlooked and opportunities like this clinic are things that these kids just don’t often get. The kids and staff all had an amazing experience, one they won’t soon forget.”