The heavens aligned this year for a group of special athletes. Families with special needs children, Sulphur Springs Boys Baseball Association and the Lions Club joined forces to form the Bright Star Baseball League.
“Sulphur Springs Boys Baseball was going to start the organization last spring,” said Carmen Crouse, president of SSBBA. “We decided to hold off. We didn’t know what to expec,t and we didn’t have enough board members.”
Enter Veronica, Mike and Tyler Yost. The Yosts moved to Sulphur Springs from Orlando, Fla., in March. Veronica works for SSISD. Mike is the chief administrative officer at Memorial Clinic. Tyler, 13, is their baseball-loving son. He played organized sports in Orlando and Allen.
“Veronica was gung ho about wanting something for the kids and her child.” Crouse explained. “She contacted the city. They put her in touch with me and I asked her to come on board with us. Then, the Lions Club found out so they partnered with us.”
Jonathan Toliver, Lions Club president, said his group was happy to join the effort.
In addition to providing uniforms and hats for the players, the group handles the funding, promotes the effort and offers additional manpower for the games.
“We want to make sure there’s money and energy to continue to do it,” Toliver said. “We now have 44 kids and we’re hoping to expand it more in the spring. Our motto, ‘We Serve,’ is about helping kids and our community.”
Toliver said no one was really aware of how many kids were in need of the opportunity to play ball.
Yost asked the school district for a head count.
“There were 89 kids at the middle school and 118 kids at the high school,” Yost said. “I knew there would be enough kids to support it.”
Yost wanted Tyler to continue his experience with organized sports and realized there was a need in Sulphur Springs.
“We all came together as a group,” she noted. “All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.”
Yost reached out to her friend Robby McDonald, the CIO of Easton-Bell Sports, for help with hemlines.
“Within 48 hours of asking, I received a phone call from him saying Easton would make the donation,” she said. “When we arrived at their Irving office, there were 14 boxes of equipment, including bats, bat bags, batting gloves and helmets.
“He told me, ‘Every kid deserves to play baseball,’” Yost noted.
Games, which last an hour, are played on two fields at Buford Park. Local banks provide food after the games.
Athletes ages 5-12 play on one field, while those age 13-18 play on the other. There are two complete innings. There are no outs, no scores, no strikes or balls. SSBBA provides insurance coverage. Each athlete has a buddy assigned to help them.
“A lot of thought went into how the buddies were connected with the players,” Yost said.
According to Christina Davis, who moved to Sulphur Springs three years ago, the buddy system has been a great success.
“It takes away the mystery of a child with special needs,” Davis explained. “Kids are the best for kids. The buddies have been amazing. I’m in the dugout and there is a lot going on and the buddies are handling it beautifully.”
Davis and her husband, Andy, a Lions Club member, coach the younger athletes. Their older son, Jacob, a sixth grader, serves as a buddy.
Their younger son, Zach, participated in special needs baseball when they lived in the Woodlands. They’ve also driven to Mount Pleasant for Zach to play ball, but wanted something closer to home.
“Our idea was that these relationships would bridge into school,” Davis said. “We’re definitely seeing that.”
Bright Star’s final game and awards ceremony will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, at Buford Park. It’s a chance to see what can happen when passionate people come together for a cause greater than themselves.
“This is about so much more than baseball,” Yost said. “It’s about building self-esteem and peer relationships. My dream is that this program will continue after Tyler turns 19.”
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