Buddy Baseball matches ‘buddies’ with special-needs children to provide a memorable experience for both. The first game in Jerusalem is later this month at Kraft Stadium..
(photo credit: KESHET BUDDY BASEBALL/COURTESY)
When Buddy Baseball’s head honcho Dean Klassman landed in Israel this week, in tow he had three massive boxes of hats, clappers, jerseys, equipment and other paraphernalia for Thursday’s inaugural event in Jerusalem.
When the Chicago native checked in to his hotel and was asked why he came to Israel, Klassman explained that after many years of running Buddy Baseball back home, together with Friendship Circle Central Jerusalem he was bringing the exciting and inspirational special-needs sports program to the Holy Land.
The hotel receptionist replied: “Oh, I’ve read all about it, my boyfriend from America, who works for the US Consulate here, played baseball for years in the States. He’s from Peoria, Illinois, and he’s coming to help out and cheer at Thursday’s game at Kraft Stadium. It’s such a wonderful thing that you guys are doing for everyone involved.”
And thus is a little window into the power of sports, especially as it pertains to children, and even more specifically the impact it can have on boys and girls with special needs.
A noncompetitive, friendship- building league, Buddy Baseball provides an opportunity for boys and girls with special needs to build self-esteem and create warm, lasting memories on the baseball field.
Partnering special-needs players with “buddy” volunteers gives children who may have never played sports with a friend the chance to experience teamwork, camaraderie and the magic of excelling in an athletic environment.
As the first pitch nears for Thursday evening’s proceedings (scheduled for 5:15 p.m. at Jerusalem’s Kraft Stadium), more and more Jerusalemites are embracing the idea that every person – of all backgrounds and ages – has something to give to, and gain from, this game, Emails continue to flood in from families who just want to join and support the game and from good-hearted local Jerusalem teenagers asking if more buddies are needed, or even just to volunteer in any capacity at the event. All want to be a part of seeing every child enjoy the magic of an outdoor game, just as they do.
Kids in wheelchairs are coming from as far as Ma’aleh Adumim and Ramat Beit Shemesh to participate in the game and experience the thrill of supporters cheering their name as they round the bases with their buddies.
“I am so thrilled to be here in Israel, especially for such a special occasion,” said Klassman.
“This has been a passion of mine for a long time, and it is touching to see the initial response to bringing Buddy Baseball to Jerusalem, where the desire and need for such a program definitely exists.”
Supermarket magnate Rami Levy – who holds the sports portfolio at the Jerusalem Municipality – is expected to be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, with other local dignitaries and celebrities planning on attending as well.
Friendship Circle works in sync with many other special- needs organizations in Israel and as a result, the game will feature children from places such as Beit Rachel Strauss, the Feuerstein Institute, Keren Or, Knafayim Shel Krembo, Siach Sod, Hettena and others.
Thursday’s game will be the start of a full-fledged Buddy Baseball season, which will continue with monthly games throughout the summer.Inaugural Buddy Baseball game in Jerusalem is open to the public – Thursday at Kraft Stadium at 5:15 p.m. For more information, please visit www.fcjerusalem.org or call 054-682-3737