Oct. 2, 2013
RUSTON - Teresa Weatherspoon was all smiles Tuesday morning as she sat in her office recalling the events of Saturday that saw her Louisiana Tech players and coaches participating in a local community service endeavor.
Weatherspoon's crew joined a number of Wade Simoneaux's Bulldog baseball players in assisting with Buddy Ball, a local baseball league formed for special needs children ages 4 to 16.
"What an amazing time we had," said Weatherspoon, referring to her team's participation in Buddy Ball. "It was amazing and inspirational. Our kids had a marvelous time. I don't think they have stopped talking about how inspirational it was.
"(Our players) saw the joy those young people had just playing a game. They witnessed the fun they had out there ... not one time did they see a kid complain. It meant so much to the lives of our players being able to have an impact on those young people. And I can promise you that those young people had an impact on the lives of our players."
Buddy Ball uses tee ball rules for playing, with players advancing one base at a time. No score is kept. The players are assigned "buddies" who assists them in the game, but the children are encouraged to do as much as they can on their own.
Mike Kane, former baseball coach at Louisiana Tech and a member of the board of directors for Buddy Ball, said that the involvement of the student-athletes is immeasurable.
"The purpose of this league is to give these kids the same opportunity that other kids get," Kane said. "These kids are just like other kids; they love sports and they look up to the Tech student athletes. They see them play, and they are just like all kids. They want to be like them."
Simoneaux and his players have also been helping with Buddy Ball as six different Bulldogs serve as buddies during the games each weekend.
"This is something Mike Kane had approached me and asked if we would be interested, and I said absolutely. We are going to have guys out there every Saturday and our entire team will go on one Saturday coming up."
Kane said that it takes the entire Ruston community for Buddy Ball to succeed.
"I will tell you this," Kane said. "It puts an extra smile on their faces when they see (the Tech student-athletes). And we couldn't operate the league without buddies. It means a lot to us that Wade and Teresa and others in the community are willing to volunteer. We are very fortunate to have a good community."
Both Weatherspoon and Simoneaux said that their respective team's participation in the league is two-fold. First, they wanted their players to give back to the community that has supported their programs.
And just as importantly, they wanted them to learn the difference between inconvenience and a true struggle.
"Our kids always complain about being tired, being sore. They complain about getting up early in the mornings to practice or train. Those are just inconveniences in life. However, when you see a young person who has these types of disabilities - true everyday challenges - and what they go through on a daily basis, well that is a true struggle. It was inspirational to see how they face each day with such joy and see how they accomplish the things they accomplish. There is no reason for us to complain."
Lady Techster junior forward Whitney Frazier said that the experience of the past weekend was something she will never forget.
"It meant a lot to us," Frazier said. "Coach Spoon always says that there are kids out there that go through struggles. For us we go through inconvenience. We get nagging injuries, and we think it is the end of the world. Those kids are actually going through struggles. They have much bigger challenges than we do. It was great seeing the kids smiling and having fun. They were happy to be there.
Frazier's buddies for the day were a boy named Junior and a girl named Hannah.
"I enjoyed both Junior and Hannah," she said. "Junior was a handful. It was his first time. He was everywhere. He had me running everywhere. He loved the microphone. He was very playful and really clung to me. They both made me feel special."
Mechelle Brown, who is on the board of directors for Buddy Ball, said that the games are currently played at the tee ball field on Ball Park Road in Ruston, but that the organization is raising money to build their own field. She also praised the involvement of Louisiana Tech's student-athletes and coaches.
"We've had a lot of involvement from Louisiana Tech and its coaches and athletes," said Brown. "They have all been so great."
For more information on Buddy Ball, log onto Facebook.com/BuddyBallRuston or call Mechelle Brown at 243-3842.