Buddy Baseball brings bright, beautiful smiles to Jerusalem

Buddy Baseball matches ‘buddies’ with special-needs children to provide a memorable experience  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Buddy Baseball matches ‘buddies’ with special-needs children to provide a memorable experience
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The most vivid, lasting memory from Thursday’s inaugural Buddy Baseball event in Jerusalem is undoubtedly the smiles – big, bright, face-filling smiles on the faces of players, parents, volunteers and organizers alike.
So many beautiful smiles, it brought tears to the eyes.
In an inspiring debut, Friendship Circle Central Jerusalem’s foray into the sports realm was a smashing success, with a few hundred people showing up at Kraft Stadium to enjoy the opener of what will be an extraordinary baseball season for special-needs girls and boys.
Each child was paired with a teenage “buddy” to help guide them through the various roles on the diamond, from fielding, batting and base-running.
Dean Klassman, who began Buddy Baseball in the Chicago area 16 years ago and traveled to Israel with his wife to head Thursday’s proceedings – was delighted with the turnout, with all the T-shirts, hats, balls, clappers that he brought from the US quickly snatched up by eager participants and fans.
“There is no way to put into words the heartwarming feeling I get every single time I step onto the field to coach Buddy Baseball,” said Klassman, who oversaw the entire event with a loving touch and dynamic flair.
“I look forward to seeing the Friendship Circle growing this program here and returning to Israel in a few years for the Buddy Baseball All-Star game.”
The ceremonial first pitches were thrown by former ambassador to the US and current member of the Knesset Michael Oren, supermarket mogul and holder of the sports portfolio for the Jerusalem municipality Rami Levy, and American Football in Israel president Steve Leibowitz.
The noncompetitive game pitted the “White Sox” vs the “Cubs” (of course), but the competition took a backseat to the overall vibe of magical camaraderie and just ‘letting go’ that can at times be so elusive for anyone, let alone children with unique challenges and their families.
“I can’t tell you the last time my son had this much fun,” said a mother of one of the younger players. “This is everything he has dreamed about when he watches baseball on television.”
While baseball was the landscape, as Klassman said, “this program isn’t just about baseball, but about something exciting in the lives of these children that they can look forward to and feel a part of. That’s what feeds my motivation and passion.”
Indeed, being a part of a team and playing a sport with friends is something that everyone deserves to experience.
Thanks to Buddy Baseball, Friendship Circle and a fantastic network of similar organizations and dedicated volunteers, Jerusalem’s special- needs children are now able to take advantage of something most people take for granted.
For more information or to get involved in Buddy Baseball or Friendship Circle in any capacity, please visit www.fcjerusalem.org