Zeeland Student With Down Syndrome Hits Home Run With Support From Byron Center Opponent [Video]
An unforgettable moment on a baseball field last week as a Zeeland Christian eighth-grader with Down Syndrome was given an opportunity to bat and hit a home run with the support of his team, his opponent and all in attendance.
The moment took some planning. It began when Zeeland’s coach Chris Lowe, who is also a teacher at the school, contacted Byron Center Christian‘s coach Kevin and asked if they’d be willing to allow Jack from Zeeland to have the team’s first at bat.
Jack is an eighth-grader with Down Syndrome. He has attended many of his team’s baseball games and helped as a “manager” but he has not played. Byron Center Christian was thrilled to be a part of the plan and helped to make it a special moment.
When the time came for Jack to bat strong support could be seen and heard from fans of both teams. Jack was given multiple swings before finally connecting. It was a short grounder in foul territory, but Jack took off running. He kept running to second base, third base and was waved home. At home plate Jack put on a serious athletic display with a huge head-first slide. He was safe and was immediately mobbed by his teammates. Everyone in attendance was cheering loudly in support of Jack.
Jack was given a game ball by his team after the game. Byron Center Christian also gave him a ball. It was a ball signed by the entire team. It’s a ball that made Jack smile from ear-to-ear as he showed it off to everyone at school in the morning.
Zeeland Christian’s coach Chris Lowe wrote a letter to Byron Center Christian Administrator John Kramer thanking them for their role. Lowe wrote, “Our players were ready for this game to be an opportunity for them to celebrate a beloved classmate on the field in a manner that would make him feel loved and like a true member or our team. But, in no way could I, our team, Jack’s family and friends have imagined the way that your team and fans would come alongside, and even lead in honoring him.”
An amazing display of sportsmanship by all involved. It’s a moment which those who know and love Jack will never forget and a moment which has inspired thousands who have never met him.
Dear BCCS staff,
I just wanted to take a minute to write a note expressing my appreciation to your 8th grade baseball team and coaches. My name is Chris Lowe, and I teach at Zeeland Christian and coach the baseball team here. Yesterday, we had the privilege of playing your team (for a 2nd time…because we enjoyed playing them so much the first).
I had contacted Kevin about a student of ours who has come to several of our games as a “manager” and is a crucial member of our 8th grade body. His name is Jack, and he has Down’s Syndrome. Before promising Jack, I asked Kevin if he could have the first at bat of our team, as it would make his 8th grade year that much more special. Kevin more than obliged, even saying how much he and his players looked forward to playing a role in that goal.
But (and I’m still emotional reflecting on this), the response was more that I could have ever hoped. Jack came up to bat, and the young man who was pitching did everything he could to make sure Jack got a hit. Jack was his usual self, adding a nice “waggle”, calling his “big hit” in advance, even switching sides of the plate:). Eventually, Jack made contact. It was a foul ball, but in his mind, he had just crushed it. He took off around the bases, and, your team made sure he got around the bases without making him feel patronized or like a charity case.
But…it didn’t end there. Even though the scoreboard didn’t show it, Kevin made sure that he made Jack feel “counted”, yelling to his team to get their game faces on since they were now “down a run” . And…in the coolest moment…the entire team (your team) signed a ball and as a team presented it to Jack after the following inning. We set aside the game ball for him, but, it was the ball signed by your kids that he was showing everyone this morning at school, going from room to room with a smile from ear to ear.
Our players were ready for this game to be an opportunity for them to celebrate a beloved classmate on the field in a manner that would make him feel loved and like a true member or our team. But, in no way could I, our team, Jack’s family and friends have imagined the way that your team and fans would come alongside, and even lead in honoring him.
Our theme as a school this year is “Selfless”, based on Colossians 3:17. It was humbling to have such a concrete example shown to Jack and to us by a group of students and fans that didn’t know him beforehand. My comment to my team after the game is that none of them would ever remember the score or how they performed, but all of them would remember how they felt when he crossed the plate and looked at them. And, based on the genuine reaction of the Byron Center folks, I am pretty sure they won’t forget it either.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to encourage your students to be selfless. Their love for others and ultimately for God was so evident to Jack, our team, and so many who came to watch. Please thank them for being the hands and feet of Christ yesterday. It was humbling to be on the “same team”.