Friday, June 09, 2006

Exciting opportunity for visually impaired child

Visually impaired since birth, four-year-old Mitchell Villanueva can experience playing baseball thanks to the Giants Community Fund's Junior Giants program, which openly accommodates Villanueva's desire to play America's favorite game.

Mitchell can feel the intensity of the California sun thumping down on his brow as he trots out to his position on the baseball diamond. The exuberant cheers of supportive fans only intensify his excitement at the Junior Giants program of the Visalia Police Activities League. Mitchell's grandfather, John Villanueva, and his father, Chad Villanueva, serve as coaches for Mitchell's team. When Mitchell is situated in his regular outfield position, he listens for his grandfather's or father's directions when a ball is hit his way. Upon fielding the ball, Mitchell then listens to instructions about how to maneuver his body in order to throw the ball in.

When batting, Mitchell receives four pitches from a coach or hits off a tee and relies on his grandfather's voice to tell him when to swing. After contact, Mitchell listens for his father's voice at first base, and he runs to the bag with the occasional aid of a coach who runs along side him. A similar journey continues as Mitchell rounds the bases. On his way to home plate, Mitchell listens to his father's voice and usually runs unaided to score.

Adding joy to the scene is the fact that Mitchell has the opportunity to play baseball with his brother, Jonathan, and his cousin, Eddie Quezada, who are both visually able.

"We want Mitchell to enjoy the opportunity to play with his brother and cousin while he can," says John Villanueva. "Mitchell is a big fan of them, and they are big fans of Mitchell."

Junior Giants also gives Mitchell and his teammates the opportunity be involved in a constructive activity that allows for social development.

"The kids make the program," says John Villanueva. "It's wonderful to see them learn about each other, about baseball and about life. We do it for them."

Junior Giants, presented by Bank of America, is a non-competitive baseball league run by the Giants Community Fund. More than 13,000 youth in over 70 leagues across California, Oregon and Nevada are involved in this exciting summertime baseball tradition. The Junior Giants' unique combination of instilling confidence, teamwork, leadership and integrity in its players while introducing them to America's favorite pastime makes it an all-star program.

Among the league's awards, the Junior Giants Program was inducted into the World
Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame as the "Best Single Program" run by any professional sports team.
The Fresno Grizzlies in association with the Giants Community Fund will host the Junior Giants Glove Drive on Thursday, June 1, 2006 at Grizzlies Stadium.

Fans are encouraged to bring an old or new glove to the ballpark and drop it off at any of the glove bins located outside the stadium's entrances or inside at the Courtesy Booth. The Grizzlies will also host the Coaches Clinic Saturday at Grizzlies Stadium from 10:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.


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