This spring, the Bob Marcello Baseball Complex in Royal Palm Beach will light up with cheers, laughs and smiles as members of the Sunshine League take the plate — and there’s still time to get involved.
Each Friday between April 5 and May 12 from 7 to 8 p.m., a crowd gathers to watch as each player runs home — there are no losers, and everyone scores. Formerly the Challenger League, the Sunshine League gives players of all abilities the chance to be a star.
“One of our girls chose the name,” Commissioner Larry Weld said. “She chose the new name because it’s always sunny outside. We thought it was fitting.”
Players range from age 3 to 64, and each one of them has his or her own unique challenge. Sign-ups for the league end Friday, March 22.
“I’ve seen kids come out at the start of the season with a walker, and by the time the season is done, they don’t need it anymore,” Weld said. “Everyone is welcome to join, whether it’s as a player or just coming out and cheering on the teams.”
The volunteer-run league is sponsored by the Asphalt Angels, a local car club. It was started by Royal Palm Beach Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio to give children with disabilities an opportunity to play on a softball team.
The experience has been life changing for the kids and adults who play, and also the close-knit community that fervently supports the teams, Weld said.
“We have seen kids just come out of their shell,” he said. “They have so much fun, and it’s a chance for them to get out and get active.”
The league plays by special but simple rules: every player goes to bat, gets a hit and runs home.
“Within ten minutes of coming out to see these kids play, you can just see the joy on their faces,” Weld said. “At first it breaks your heart, but people say that it’s the most fun they’ve had watching a ball game in a long time.”
Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are still available. Sponsors are included on the Asphalt Angels’ web site and on banners at the car shows for the entire year of the sponsorship.
For more information, call Weld at (561) 723-5986.
Players can sign up at the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center or online at www.royalpalmbeach.com.
Even if you can’t sponsor, Weld encouraged the community to come out each week and cheer on the players.
“We love to have people just come watch,” he said. “The kids love an audience. They just light up as the crowd cheers their name. It’s great; you have to see it.”
Above: Ryan Memberg rounds third base during a game last May.