Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. to add division for kids with special needs
The desire to see kids be kids is innate in parents.
So quiet baseball fields that have not seen organized games since last March are among the sobering sites ushered in by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. hopes to not let an opportunity, even one brought by a crisis, go to waste. While many league activities have been impacted by the pandemic, the local PONY baseball league has taken steps to cast a wider net for the kids and families that it serves.
A Champions division, geared toward offering the sport to children with special needs, is the newest addition for the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn.
“We’re trying to offer sport to the community, to all kids — to boys, to girls, to all ages, to all skill levels, all abilities — and this kind of helps round out offering it to everybody,” Jared Eisenberg, the president of the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn., said.
The program will come at no cost to the families who sign up their child with special needs to partake in the Champions division.
Eisenberg has an early goal of getting at least 12 kids registered in the program. Such a number would enable games to be played when guidance for youth sports allows for competition to resume.
The vision that the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. is working with would have the Champions division play games once a week, Eisenberg said. Each Champions division player would also be with a buddy for the game, which would come from among kids who play in the organization’s recreational leagues and on the Select teams.
Dan and Alicia Tarman of Newport Coast have registered their son Leo, 13, who is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, to participate in the Champions division.
Leo, who attends New Vista School in Laguna Hills, exclaimed excitedly that he looks forward to playing second base and pitching.
His younger brother Miles, 9, who attends Tarbut V’Torah in Irvine, indicated that he would be a ready and willing buddy who would like to teach others to pitch. He said he would show his brother the grip for a four-seam fastball.
“He’s an exceptionally kind and sweet boy, but there aren’t a lot of athletic options, organized sports for kids like Leo,” Dan said. “It’s great that the NHBA is doing this because it’s a way for the community to rally around, to create opportunities for all kids.
“It’s a social opportunity. It’s also an opportunity for people like his brother, who plays for the 10U Select team, to also be involved and to help out.”
The socialization of having a buddy with each kid in the Champions division can be mutually beneficial.
“Kids like [Leo’s] brother and the kids on his brother’s team who are incredible players, they’re wonderful kids who might or might not have interactions with children who are different,” Dan said. “I think it teaches empathy, it teaches community, it teaches friendship, it teaches you that not every friend is going to be the same, to accept people as they are.”
Newport Beach resident Lieveke Engleking has a 10-year-old son Colton who plays in the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn.’s PONY Bronco division. She said that her son is eager to be a buddy, and she believes it will be a rewarding experience.
“The vision that I think will be great is our kids helping other kids and showing them and teaching them how to play the game of baseball, like their coaches do,” Engleking said. “They’ll get a great understanding of what these coaches are giving to them.”
Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.
All the latest on Orange County from Orange County.
Get our free TimesOC newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Daily Pilot.