Saturday, April 28, 2007

Baseball dream come true, for boy with seizure disorder!

In a week where heartwarming stories were sorely needed, the tale of Joey Walters -- Salem Avalanche's Manager for a Day -- hit a home run.

Joey is the East Montgomery High School freshman who longs to play baseball. Most kids his age have years of Little League practice behind them, so when the call goes out for the junior varsity team tryouts, they're ready. Not Joey.

Instead of shagging balls, he's been benched by epilepsy. For the past decade, regular seizures and two brain surgeries have kept him on the bleachers.

But now, things are different. Even Joey's doctor, University of Virginia neurologist Edward Bertram, thinks so, and wrote a note clearing him to play baseball, even encouraging him to do so.
Trouble is Joey can't hit, pitch and catch like his classmates. So the coach cut him -- even though only a dozen boys wanted to wear the uniform. Can't really blame the coach, who's trying to put together a winning team. Joey's no clutch hitter; heck, he'd probably drop easy pop-ups. Might even get hurt. And those seizures? What happens then?

Of course the kindest thing would have been to hand Joey a uniform, call him a bat boy, a water boy, a team manager. Something. Let him warm the bench and send him in at the top of the ninth when a game is already won.

But kindness wasn't on the roster.

So Joey learned a big lesson: Life's filled with more strike outs than hits. His potential teammates didn't get a chance to learn a different lesson: the one about working as a team, even when one members is, well, a little different.

That might have been the end of Joey's season. But there was another lesson left to learn: Sometimes compassion hands you an extra inning.

The Salem Avalanche taught it well in letting Joey take the field Thursday as their team manager.
The minor leaguers know what it is like to dream of playing ball, and a few players plan to help Joey learn the skills.

To that, we can but add: Wait until next year, Joey. You'll get 'em.


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