In January, Ray sent me an email.
First, I’m still a flip-phone guy, so we’re similar in that vein.
I’m a wheelchair softball player, and we’re working now to bring the National Wheelchair Softball Association World Series to Kansas City this summer. Here is the link to NWSA.
You’d have a chance there to play catch with the people from several different states and countries in one day!
Plus, it’d help us promote the sport we love.
Think it over!
The NWSA World Series is scheduled for August 9th thru 11th. Games will be played at T-Bones stadium, in Cabela’s parking lot, and in several other locations across the metro area. More than 20 teams from across the country are expected to play, as well as a one team from Japan and maybe one or two from other countries.
I contacted Ray to see if there would be any chance of meeting the team and tossing the ball before August. They had planned a day in the hitting cages in Lenexa and invited me to join them.
Jake (Day #33) accompanied me across state lines on the way to an indoor sports facility just a few blocks off of I-435. Today is a perfect day for an indoor game of catch. I spotted Ray by the hitting cages, past several volleyball courts. He greeted me and quickly introduced me to the handful of team members present, then joined me in the adjoining cage for a game of catch.
With a 16” Chicago softball.
“Or Mushball. Some guys on the team don’t use gloves. I play first base, so I use a 14” mitt.”
The ball literally filled the entirety of my glove. It took my whole hand to throw it and reminded me of my pathetic attempts at throwing a football with Mack. If paradox is possible in catch playing, the ball was both light and heavy.
Ray started playing on this team in 1994.
“If you want to play this sport, just like wheelchair basketball, you better be willing to drive three or four hours to find another team.”
Knowing the passion of the KC community for baseball and softball, that statement surprised me.
“The Royals are our sponsors this year, jerseys and everything, which is pretty neat.”
Ray’s team is composed of amazing athletes of all ages who play wheelchair softball for a variety of reasons — from polio to wounded in service to freak accidents of life.
“When the neighbor kid down the street crashes his motorcycle, we want him and others to know we’re here.”
As we threw and talked, the rest of the team set up the adjacent cage for batting practice. Jake and I watched and helped shag balls. I grimaced when line drives hit players in the shins or knees. I was amazed when a player snagged a hard line drive with his bare hand.
“How many fingers do you break in a season?” I asked.
No one answered.
And then Ray invited Jake and me to take some swings.
“In May, we’ll be having an A-B tournament. Feel free to bring a few players with you. Players are fairly evenly distributed between the teams skill-wise. We’ll have wheelchairs a-plenty in various sizes. Everyone gets a chance to play.”
I would love the opportunity to take the field with Ray and might have to find a way to come back to KC in both May and August.
On this time-change Sunday, my flip phone did not update, neither overnight nor after turning it off and back on. Weird.