By Lily Belcher
The Bloomingdale Youth Sports Association is more than just a home to travel baseball and softball teams, it is an organization that provides athletes with the opportunity to foster their love of sports in a safe and encouraging environment. One of the programs offered by the Bloomingdale Youth Sports Association is Bambino Buddy-Ball.
Bambino Buddy-Ball was founded in 2000 to “encompass players who are either physically and/or mentally challenged and yearn to play the game of softball and baseball.”
The program is part of the Babe Ruth League, which is affiliated with the baseball and softball leagues of the Bloomingdale Youth Sports Association. The Babe Ruth League celebrates its 70th anniversary this year and is one of the premier baseball and softball leagues for children worldwide.
“Babe was a man who loved children and baseball,” Claire Ruth, the second wife of baseball legend Babe Ruth, said. “He could receive no greater tribute than to have a youth baseball program named after him.”
The Bambino Buddy-Ball division allows 5 to 20-year-olds to participate in short, noncompetitive games to encourage physical activity and friendships among teammates. Games last four innings or 90 minutes (whichever comes first) and Bambino Buddy-Ball emphasizes the relaxed feel of the games by prohibiting scorekeeping and competition between managers. Through the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the games, athletes and buddies experience constructive and sportsmanlike friendships to “develop confidence and positive self-esteem.”
In many divisions, players are assigned a buddy—a volunteer (usually a family member or high school student) to assist the players with fielding, batting and baserunning during the games. Parents of the athletes can indicate whether their child will need a buddy and the extent to which the buddy will have to assist their athlete on the field. High school volunteers receive service hours by assisting players and the team throughout the season, which consists of weekly games.
The Bambino Buddy-Ball League describes the volunteer opportunity as “an emotionally rewarding experience for all involved as Buddy-Ball allows the buddies to feel good about helping their challenged friends, while at the same time making it a fun and memorable time for all.”