Aside from the Miracle League, the boys have never been to a baseball game before. We've been so busy doing other fun things, that taking a trip to see our local "big" team - the Durham Bulls - never really came to mind. Don't get me wrong, we are baseball fans. We just never made it out.
A couple of weeks ago, the Carolina Mudcats came out to a Miracle League game to be buddies for the boys. They were awesome guys, took a real liking to Luke and Will... but I will be honest, I hadn't ever heard of them. One quick Google search later, and I learned that the Mudcats are the Single A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and play just 25 minutes from our house. Who knew.
Luke was still talking about his buddy Salazar a couple of weeks later. The guy really made an impression on Luke, and Will's buddy Flores tried so hard to make Will enjoy baseball (tough sell for Will). I decided it was time to head to Five County Stadium and cheer on our buddies. Memorial Day was coming up, and my dad and Tammy (avid baseball fans) were visiting... and the Mudcats were at home to take on the Winston-Salem Dash. Perfect.
I wasn't able to find handicapped seats online. One call to the Mudcats front office, and we had 7 tickets right on top of the third base dugout. There was a place where we could wheel Will in comfortably and all sit together. On our way we went.
The day was warm, but the section of the stadium where the handicap seats are is open from the field to the concourse and there was a lovely breeze. We quickly made friends with the family next to us (who - ironically - had 10 year old boy twins, one of whom had cerebral palsy). The restrooms, food stands, and beer sellers were just steps away. The sun was at our backs the whole game - score! No squinting.
There were fun activities on the field in between innings - Muddy the Mudcat mascots racing on four-wheelers around the infield, ceremonies to honor local troops, sack races, and the quickest tug-of-war you ever saw. Luke and the 10-year old twin made friends and palled around the open area behind our seats with Matt in tow. Will did the best that could be expected with all the noise of the crowd. I think with more exposure, he'll do great. He didn't even flinch when they launched fireworks after a Mudcats home run - progress! A year ago, the sound of fireworks would have sent him into a screaming fit.
It didn't matter that the boys didn't know the rules of the game. What matters more was the excitement on their faces when the crowd went wild and they smiled and cheered just because everyone else was. And that they had their first ballpark hot dogs. And that Matt now walks around the house chanting "we will, we will raaa you, raaa you," all the while clapping his hands and stomping his feet in time to Queen.
We all had an awesome time. The Mudcats put up a valiant effort (we even saw Flores pitch) but in the end, they lost by 2 runs. It didn't really matter to us. I think its safe to say we've found a new summer pastime. The Mudcats are a top notch organization and really make it effortless to enjoy an inclusive, all-American, family night out... wheelchair or no wheelchair.