A Dream League of their own

Bill McCaughey
For the Fort Bend Star

ADreamLeague2It is difficult to tell who gets the most satisfaction from a Challenger Division “Dream League” Little League game.

It could be Joe “Action Joe” Kendall, who steps into the batter’s box, holds his hand over the plate indicating where he wants the pitch, and then promptly blasts a home run into left field. It might be Charlotte “Daisy” Douds who is probably the most selective hitter in the league as she waits for her perfect pitch. It might even be umpire Charlie “Blue” Clines who has a constant smile on his face and loves umpiring the games because he never has to call a runner out at home plate. Most likely it is anyone who attends a Saturday morning game at the First Colony Little League Fields.

The Dream League is in its 10th season and has 120 children on six teams. The Dream League winds up its season May 22 at Constellation Field where they will play an all-star game after the Skeeters’ game.

Most Skeeters fans already know a Dream Leaguer. Mike “Big Mike” Garcia is the Skeeters bat boy and a Dream League veteran. After the Dream League all-star game, the Skeeters will hand out 500 Big Mike bobblehead figures in honor of the Dream League. On a recent Saturday morning, Big Mike is having a good day at the plate as he slams several balls into the outfield.

Dream League Board Member Jimmy Goldman said, “About the only requirement for a Dream Leaguer is a cool nickname, such as Fireball, Megatron, Diamond Girl or The Bomb. One of my many favorite players is Sniper. She will slide in to home plate every time, whether it is necessary or not.”

Jevaughn Sterling, a parent and the public address announcer for this morning’s game, said his son Eric “Popcorn” Sterling can’t wait for Saturdays to come so he can play baseball. Eric also plays basketball and participates in the Special Olympics, but baseball is his first love.

Each game lasts two innings and everyone on the team bats and scores each inning. Coaches pitch to their team members, sometimes from as close as five feet.

A few batters use a batting tee. All batted balls are hits. According to Bruce Hicks, Dream League Board Member, “Outs are celebrated but we don’t keep track of them.” Umpire Charlie Clines, who has umpired little league state championship games, is also very flexible on fair or foul calls.

“Most are fair,” he said.

Some trash talking is allowed as Jim “Elevator Explorings” Li slams a line drive past the head of his coach, Mark Anchondo, who is pitching to him, then reminds him about it for the rest of the inning. For those wondering about his nickname, Jim is fascinated with elevators and has posted over 3,100 videos about elevators on YouTube and has 4,220 YouTube subscribers. He was also voted homecoming king at Clements High School last fall.

Each Dream Leaguer has an Angel who helps them both in the field and at the plate. As Jim Li ran to first base after his line drive, Brynn Peters ran side by side with him around the bases. Brynn, and her Fort Settlement Middle School classmates Olivia Courvelle and Haley Nguyen, enjoy helping the Dream Leaguers. They feel they may gain more benefit from the experience than the Dream Leaguers they are assisting.

In today’s game, Haley was Angel to Melena “Diamond Girl” Garcia. When a sharply hit ground ball was hit right at Melena at second base, Haley jumped out of the way while Melena calmly snagged it with her glove. Melena’s wheelchair was only a minor inconvenience as she tossed the ball to first base.

At the plate, Melena connected on a pitch and as she dropped her bat and pushed on her wheels, Haley pushed from behind as they headed to first base. They made it around the bases safely and score a run as Umpire Clines bellows “Safe” as they cross home plate.

Bruce Hicks’s daughter Lexi was an Angel and then a Dream League coach for several years. Because of her experience with the Dream League, Lexi will graduate soon with a degree in special education.

As the day’s second round of games is about to begin, a somewhat older Angel, with his eye black on, enters the dugout ready to be assigned a Dream Leaguer. Pete “Congressman” Olson, like everyone else in attendance this morning, gets a big smile on his face when asked why he supports the Dream League. “It’s simple – the Dream League kids give us a lot more than we give them,” said the Republican Congressman.

In an age where participation trophies are the norm, there really is a league where everyone, the players, the coaches, the Angels, the parents, the fans and surprisingly even a Congressman, are truly winners.

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