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A league of their own

November 26, 2005|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The age-old challenge of hitting a round ball with a cylindrical bat is tougher for 7-year-old Fhaze Broadus of Hagerstown, who has cerebral palsy. His right hand doesn't work right for him. Neither does his right eye. Mentally, he's about 2 or 3 years old, his mother, Miranda Lewis, said.

Fhaze only started walking about a year ago, but he gets around plenty now. His mother wants to find a productive outlet for him, so his life isn't limited to hanging around the house with her.

"He loves to play, inside or outside," Lewis said. "He just likes to be doing something."

Lewis' idea is to start a local baseball league for children with disabilities. She got the idea from a TV commercial she saw a few months ago for The Miracle League and sent for a start-up packet.

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The league has a headquarters in Conyers, Ga., according to its Web site. A posted history says the league started in 1998.

"Disabled children in our community had expressed the desire to dress in uniforms, make plays in the field, and round the bases just like their healthy peers," the history says.

Every player bats once per inning and scores a run. All base runners are safe. Other children and volunteers are "buddies" to help disabled players.

The league says its goal is to have more than 500 fields by the end of this year in the U.S. and abroad, but its Web site has little information about its current sites.

Attempts to reach the league Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful. Washington County's Little League ? which is not connected to The Miracle League ? already gives children with disabilities a chance to play ball, said Susie Hoffman, the administrator for the local district.

She didn't know how many children take part.

Little League's Challenger Division is for children ages 5 to 18 with physical or mental disabilities, according to Little League's Web site. Every player on the roster is in the batting order and plays in the field for at least one-half of every game.

Each inning lasts long enough for every player on offense to bat, until a certain number of runs are scored or until there are three outs. Players can hit off a tee or have coaches or players pitch to them.

Lewis said she heard the Little League had something for disabled children, but hasn't researched it.

Even if Fhaze plays in the Challenger League instead or sticks to T-ball in his yard, Lewis said she still wants to start a Miracle League, hoping it will help at least one child.

Lewis, 25, is studying criminal justice at Hagerstown Business College. She hopes to go to Shippensburg University to pursue a bachelor's degree in social science, then get a job for Child Protective Services.

She said she doesn't know other families with disabled children, so Fhaze's family is his social circle. He has a younger sister, Maryland, 6, and his father, Fernando Broadus.

Lewis said her extended family is large and nearby. From her, her brother and her two sisters, her mother has 16 grandchildren. She said Fhaze's young relatives accept him.

Still, it's tough raising a boy with a disability, she said.

"It's been seven years. It's easier now," Lewis said. "But you see other kids doing what (yours) can't."

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