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A League of Their Own

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Baseball has long been known as America’s favorite pastime, but if you want to see the game at its best, it doesn’t get any better than what you’ll find at Gene Fullmer Recreation Center in West Jordan, Utah. That’s where you’ll find players like eight-year-old Carter Taylor.

Don’t let his age fool you. Carter is a baseball expert. He’s been following the game since he was old enough to talk. Unfortunately, Carter has spent most of his life watching his older brother’s games from the sidelines. Born with congenital muscular dystrophy, Carter wasn’t strong enough to play in a league with other children his age. 

This year a new league presented Carter and other children with disabilities a new opportunity. Recreational therapists Laura Lewis and Andrea Mather from Shriners Hospitals for Children – Salt Lake City jumped at the opportunity to form and coach a team for Miracle League Baseball. The Braves 12-member team roster is made up of Shriners patients with diagnoses such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.

There are no outs in Miracle League baseball and every player gets to bat, score and play in the field. The rules for the two-inning games are different, but Laura Lewis says the feeling the kids get from playing is the same as any other baseball game, “It’s the first team most of them have had a chance to be a part of, it allows them to feel like normal kids.”

For Carter it’s a chance to not only play center field, but to also enjoy being the center of attention. For the last two years, Carter has been the strongest supporter of his brother’s baseball team. Utah Horns coach Lonny Mannikko says Carter is much more than a mascot, “Carter is the heart of our team. He’s in all of our pictures. He dresses in full uniform and he travels with us when we go out of state.”

For his final game of the season, the Utah Horns decided to give back to the little boy who has given them so much support. The entire team dressed in uniform to help Carter and his teammates round the bases in their wheelchairs.

 Carter was the final player at bat. Wearing casts on both his legs from a recent surgery to lengthen his heel cords, he stepped out of his wheelchair and up to the plate. Staring at the pitcher with intense focus, he waited with a tight grip on the bat. Carter answered the first pitch with a swing. The unmistakable crack of the ball and bat connecting signaled the game-ending home run.

As Carter climbed into his wheelchair to make a victory lap, cameras clicked and players gave each other high-fives. You would never guess by listening to the cheering crowd that no one was keeping score, but in Miracle League baseball it doesn’t matter - every child gets to be a winner. 

           

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