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A big home run from the heart

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The pitcher tagged the runner, but the player made it to first base anyway, grinning all the way.

The girl racing to third base overshot the mark and inadvertently made it to home plate, passing up her teammate standing resolutely on third.But that's all right. Nobody minds.

In fact, what's important at the T-ball games for the Orem Handicapped Youth League isn't a rule or a score.

It's love and kindness and joy.

You can see it in the faces all over the field. The coaches, planted strategically at every base and critical points in between, are as thrilled as the players when a smacked ball flies over the right fielder's head. They're more than happy when a player on the opposing team makes a nice play that theoretically puts one of their players out.

The parents are exultant as kids who rarely get an opportunity to succeed make a home run.

The players are just plain having fun.

"It's so much fun, now we're going for a soccer and a basketball league," said Selma Eisenstat.

Eisenstat is the parental force behind the creation of the handicapped T-ball league. She mentioned the idea to Orem recreation wellness manager Mark Lindsay last fall because she wanted her son, Joshua, to have a place to play.

"In Salt Lake, we usually had 30 in the league," Eisenstat said.

"Here, we've had more kids than we thought we would. We're up to 68 kids and eight teams."

The league plays every Saturday morning at Westmore Elementary between 9 and 11 a.m. on two fields. Players are between the ages of 5 and 18.

They pay $25 to register. That covers the cost of providing staff and equipment, T-shirts, team pictures and a 5-inch individual trophy for participation.

Some are physically handicapped. One uses a walker to run the bases. Others, like Eisenstat's son, are autistic or hyperactive. All of them need the emotional and physical outlet the games provide.

"We don't let them strike out," Eisenstat said. "We don't keep score."

Eisenstat said the kids really seem to be enjoying the entire exercise.

"One kid picked me up when he made the base," she said. "It's very inspirational, a lot of hugs and high-fives."

"I just want it to keep going."

Lindsay says the success of the program's first year will very probably lead to the initiation of other programs.

"There's nothing like this in Utah County," he said. "We've had a handicapped child in the regular teams but not a strictly adapted handicapped program."

Lindsay said the response to the program has surprised him.

"To be honest, I didn't know what to expect when Selma first approached me about this," Lindsay said. "We'd never done anything like this."