Tuesday, November 22, 2011

OUCARES Baseball Program

The Detroit Tigers may not have made it through the playoffs this year, but that was not through lack of trying.  Of all the professional sports played in the United States today, baseball is probably the most unique and the most inspirational.

OUCARES offers a baseball program for children and teens with autism.  This program is organized and run by the Oakland University Baseball Team.  The players teach the program participants the basics of baseball.
When I was growing up, I played a little baseball.  I wasn’t very serious about the sport though and didn’t play past fifth grade.  Those who play to a college level have skills that many do not have.  They are proud to pass those skills on to the special kids with autism.
“Determination is a trait that many baseball players’ posses, but I have learned this trait in a new light being around the kids from OUCARES,” said senior Greg Welke, who ran the baseball program and is the pitcher of the OU team. Welke continued, “Each and every day (the kids) would show up to the baseball program with smiles on their faces and ready to have fun and learn.”

Welke is majoring in marketing with a production operation management minor at Oakland University.  He is a senior planning to graduate this December. 

Even though I have been a student for three years at Oakland University, I made my first trip down the hill to the baseball field to watch the baseball program.  Happiness was evident on all the faces.  The participants showed enthusiasm for all aspects of the game.  The players learn as much from them as they teach.

“They really teach us that it is not all about winning and losing, it's about having fun,” said Dale “DJ” Jarrad, a marketing major graduating in December.  Jarrad is currently an assistant coach on the baseball team.  Prior to that, Jarrad was the team short stop.

 Other members of the team agree.  Senior general management major Dan Augustine said “These kids really put things in perspective for us.”  Augustine is a pitcher who is also graduating this December.

While building relationships with the team members, the children with autism learn life-long social skills that they can keep the rest of their lives.  Greg Welke could not agree more.

Welke said, “During the (programs) I did my best to learn each participants name and develop a friendship with them. One of my favorite memories of OUCARES is the kids coming down to the field and they would come up to me and know my name and start a conversation.”

For more information about the baseball program, visit the OUCARES website: http://www.oakland.edu/oucares/.

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