When Stephanie Brennan steps up to the plate, she doesn’t have to worry about three strikes and you’re out. She gets as many pitches as she needs for a hit and, if she doesn’t like the hit she gets, she can try for a better one.
When she hits the ball, no one is going to throw her out. In fact, coaches throw extra balls onto the field so all the fielders get a chance to chase one down and throw it back in.
Even though the rules are a little different, this is still baseball.
“It’s what I like to do,” said Brennan, 24, of Brookfield. “Baseball’s pretty fun.”
Brennan plays in the Trumbull County Adaptive Baseball league for children and adults with special needs. All the league’s games are played on Field No. 4 in Brookfield Township Community Park, the only handicapped accessible field in Trumbull County, said league President Judy Radachy of Masury.
The league was created in 2003 as Challenger Baseball and functioned under Little League rules. However, the players didn’t want to have to stop playing after high school, which is a Little League rule, so it broke away and formed its own non-profit corporation in 2014, Radachy said.
“The kids love it,” she said. “There isn’t anything else in Trumbull County or Mercer County for us.”
The league, which has six teams and about 50 players this year, attracts athletes from as far away as Jamestown, Greenville and Volant.
Sue Carr has been bringing her daughter Sarah, from Newton Falls to play since the league began.
“She loves baseball,” Sue Carr said. “She loves sports. We drive all this way so she can come over here so she can play baseball.”
Sarah Carr, 27, who has Down’s Syndrome, keeps close tabs on game days.
“She has a calendar and she definitely won’t let us forget,” Sue Carr said.
The league has lost many game days this season because of rain and extreme heat, but safety comes first. Still, it smarts for many players when they don’t get to play.
“Rainouts are hard” on the players, Radachy said.
“Rainouts are and even the heat,” Sue Carr said. “I think she (Sarah Carr) would even come when it’s, like, 90.”
Sue Carr said she likes bringing Sarah to the games because, “It gets her off the iPad.”
Christine Hamilton of Hermitage is a team mom for her sons, Austin, 22, and Dillon, 18, who have autism and other issues.
“They just enjoy staying with their friends, coming out, having fun,” Hamilton said. “Dillon likes to slide in the dirt when he runs the bases. He likes to slide in home plate. Austin just loves everything about it: catching, chasing the ball, batting. We’ve developed nice friendships with our players over the years. We’ve tried to keep the same team over the years, so we get the same players every year.”
The ball league is “part of what we do every summer,” said Hamilton, whose boys have played for about six years. “We look forward to it every year.”
Brennan’s sister, Marissa Miller, will take the field with her. Some players even have family members who help them at the plate and run the bases with them.
“It’s nice that it’s a family-oriented thing,” Hamilton said. “My family’s involved as well as the other players’ families. It’s nice that we have that.”
Radachy said she has made “awesome friends” through the ball league since she joined in 2005, when her son, Joseph, who has autism, was 8.
“That’s why we do it,” she said.