The third baseman didn't trot onto the field between innings, he rolled there. The second baseball used an aluminum walker, the pitcher a wheelchair.
Most baseball diamonds surrounding Belvedere Elementary School Saturday were occupied by colorfully uniformed Little Leaguers from the Mago Vista Athletic Association.
But one field tucked behind the school's tennis courts was reserved for children who bravely abandoned their usual role as Opening Day spectators for the chance to play a more active role in the day's festivities.
The Mago Vista organization introduced its new T-Ball for Handicappers League beneath a clear blue sky that served as a welcomed reprieve from the recent deluge of rainy weekends.
Billed as "Baseball for kids with special capabilities," the four-team league is believed to be the first of its kind on the Broadneck Peninsula.
Each team consisted of seven players, ranging in age from 5 to 16. The total far exceeded the expectations of Mago Vista assistant commissioner Debbie Murnane.
"I even said if we had five kids, that would be fine, but instead, this happened," Murnane said.
The Arnold resident doubles as coach of Staley's Sluggers, a team composed mainly of children with orthopedic disabilities.
Murnane's 7-year-old daughter, Melissa, who has cerebral palsy, sat in a wheelchair atop the mound with her long, red hair tucked under a cap. After reaching out to hug her older brother, Brian, she eagerly awaited the first ballhit her way.
"I've always brought my daughter here, but there wasno place for her to play," Murnane said. "All the parents have been very touched to be able to get their kids out here. And that's the biggest part -- the kids are here and they're able to play."
Murnanefirst approached commissioner Scott Stuart last year with the idea of starting a league for disabled children.
"Once I got to thinkingabout it, I thought it was a great idea. It was just a question of getting the initiative and starting to do it," said Stuart, a Severna Park resident who coaches the Peppers. His team met Coach Kathleen Pultz's Blue Devils in the second game.
"We knew once we started on it, we could get it done."
Stuart and Murnane grew concerned when only two individuals had registered by late March, but the applications soon poured in.
"And we're still getting phone calls," Murnane said.
"I think this is wonderful," said Annapolis resident Durant Bauersfeld, who watched her daughter, Larkin, play second base. Larkin, 12, who has cerebral palsy, used a walker and her father's guidance to position herself in the infield.
"There are so few things available to our kids," Bauersfeld said. "We try to get her involved in as many normal activities as we can. And though she has no athletic inclinations -- like her mother -- she was up for it."
Many of the children began to tire by the fourth, and final, inning, though perhaps not as much as the parents and other volunteers who assisted the athletes around the bases and in the field.
"These guys are going to sleep good tonight," said Linthicum resident Tony DeSanctis, crouched at third base so daughter Dana, 6, could rest on his knee between hitters. Dana, who has Down's syndrome, had singled in a run for Coach Chip Elgert's Mean Green Machine and later scored after a brief detour to the mound.
The morning's hardest hitter was 11-year-old Jason Brinks, who walloped a double that cleared the infield. Brinks, who like most of his teammates attends Central Elementary School, has what his mother, Bonnie, called "mental delays."
"There's not a lotout there for these children," she said. "He always watches the professionals and wants to play like the big guys."
Sure enough, when asked where he learned to swing a bat, Jason replied, "Cal Ripken taught me. Just call me Jason Brinks Ripken."
Third base was occupiedfor much of the game by Jeremy Flowers, 9, of Edgewater, who has spina bifida. Jeremy would abandon his wheelchair after each at-bat and roll to the infield.
When the shortstop was grazed by a thrown ball in the opening inning and began to cry, Jeremy quickly spun to her aid, then assumed his position at third once the tears had subsided.
"He doesn't really like his wheelchair, as you can tell. He feels too confined," said Jeremy's mother, Christine.
"We was really excited about today. He's always watched his other brother Josh play, sothis is nice. He's usually in the yard wanting something to do."
And now he's found it.
Games will take place each Saturday throughJune 15, with the exception of Memorial Day weekend.
"I think thekids loved it. It was a big success," Stuart said.
"And by next year, I think you'll see an even bigger growth," Murnane said.
"I know the ones here will be back."